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Josh Reviews For All Mankind Season Two!

I am a huge fan of Apple TV’s For All Mankind.  This show seems to be flying way under the pop culture radar, but it’s one of the best science fiction dramas I have seen in years.  I highly recommend this series, which just completed its second season!  (Click here for my review of season one.)

For All Mankind depicts an alternate history in which the United States lost the “space race” with the Soviet Union, with the U.S.S.R. becoming the first nation to land a man on the moon in 1969.  As an American who has always been very proud of this nation’s extraordinary accomplishments in the sixties with the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, this at first seemed like it would be a dystopian set-up.  But one of the (many) great delights of this series is that the show has trended utopian.

Not everything is sun and roses on the show.  Bad things happen.  Towards the end of this second season we see a series of events unfold that seem many levels more terrifying than even the hairiest moments of the Cold War in our “real” world.  But I love that the alternate history depicted on the show is, in many ways, a preferable future to the one we’ve been living through!  It’s fascinating to see, for example, how the continuing competition between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in space pushes both nations to achieve technological innovations; to push the frontiers of space explorations; and — in the U.S. at least — to new opportunities for women and African Americans.  In fact, Ronald D. Moore (one of the three creators of the show, along with Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi), in a recent interview, described For All Mankind as “the road to Star Trek.”  That idea really tickles my fancy!!  I love thinking about the events of this series as what might have eventually led the way to Gene Roddenberry’s enduring utopian vision of the future.

(There’s a lot of wonderful Star Trek DNA in this show.  Beyond the involvement of Mr. Moore himself — who wrote extensively for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — there were many other Trek alum involved.  For instance, David Thompson and Bradley Weddle, who were DS9 writers who also worked with Mr. Moore on Battlestar Galactica, wrote two episodes this season.  Maril Davis was a production associate on Next Gen and DS9.  And I was delighted to see Joe Menosky, who wrote extensively for Next Gen and then Voyager, write a script this season.  Trek even sneaks onto the actual show itself!  I smiled when Wrath of Khan was came up — … [continued]

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Josh Reviews For All Mankind Season One!

I signed up for Apple TV, just so I could watch this new show from Ronald D. Moore.  And I have no regrets!  Mr. Mooore was one of the best writers on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and he was the creator and show-runner of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, a show I absolutely adore.  For All Mankind, created by Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi, tells an alternate history of what might have transpired had the Russians won the space race and beat the U.S. to landing a man on the moon in 1969.  That sounds like it could be a dark version of history, but the show is remarkably positive and aspirational, taking the approach that the continued competition between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. led to the U.S.’s not abandoning the Apollo program after Apollo 17 in 1972.  This was one of my very favorite TV shows of 2019!

The show depicts this alternate history in a fascinatingly considered, documentary-like approach.  The series isn’t a fake-doc, but it has the gravitas of a period piece chronicle of an important time in history; it just so happens that this history is fake!  It feels like an alt-history version of From the Earth to the Moon.  I thought it was fantastic, a wonderful piece of speculative fiction that was fascinating and thrilling.

I was delighted by the many little details and moments that show us how the show’s alternate history diverged from our reality.  It’s fascinating to hear, on the radio, that Ted Kennedy cancelled his party at Chappaquiddick in order to attend NASA hearings following the Soviet’s moon landings… and then, later in the show, we learn that, untarnished by that tragedy, he’s elected President!  (It’s also fascinating to hear reports, later in the season, that President Ted Kennedy winds up embroiled in a sex scandal involving Mary Jo Kopechne — who, in reality, died at Chappaquiddick in 1969.)

As I noted above, I was very surprised and taken by the idea that, far from this show’s being some sort of dystopia, we see that many remarkably positive events spiral out of the U.S.’s loss of the space race to the Russians.  We see that NASA succeeded in creating a lunar habitat; that public pressure led to the inclusion of female astronauts far earlier than actually happened, and how that change then led to the passage of the E.R.A. in the seventies (while the E.R.A. was never, in reality, ratified).  These are just a few of many examples!  I love how, on the show, the discovery of ice on the moon in 1971 (far earlier than happened in … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite TV Series of 2019 — Part Four!

All right!  We’ve entered the TOP TEN of my list of my favorite TV series of 2019!  Click here for numbers twenty-five through twenty-one, click here for numbers twenty through sixteen, and click here for numbers fifteen through eleven.

10. Legion The best super-hero show that no one I know was watching.  Created by Noah Hawley (Fargo), Legion was a gloriously weird, outlandish, surprising series that eschewed all the tropes of a standard super-hero TV show.  Every time I thought I might know where the show was going, I’d be surprised to, instead, get a dance number!  Or a bizarre digression into, say, watching a Japanese-language explanation of the rules of time-travel!  This show was an incredible visual feast, filled with extraordinarily unusual and memorable sequences.  This third and final season took a deep dive into the X-Men mythology, exploring the events in which a young Charles Xavier fell in love with an Israeli woman, Gabrielle Haller, and confronted the powerful psychic villainy of Amahl Farouk, the Shadow King.  This was thrilling to see on-screen.  At the same time, the show moved even further away from the type of standard super-hero narrative that one might expect, choosing instead to get weirder and wilder.  There was never anything on TV quite like this show.  I miss it already.  (Click here for my full review of season three.)

9. Better Things Pamela Adlon’s gloriously strange, personal, funny, moving show is one of the most unique and wonderful series currently being produced.  It is phenomenal expression of Ms. Adlon’s enormous talent: she wrote almost every episode (eight of the season’s twelve episodes), and she directed ALL of them.  This show focuses on an incredible array of strong and interesting women: single mother Sam Fox (played by Ms. Adlon), her mother Phil, and her three children Max, Frankie, and Duke… and also the many other interesting women in Sam’s life!  Ms. Adlon’s storytelling is hyper-focused on honesty, specifically when it comes to depicting the real-life joys and struggles and sorrows of life as a working single parent of kids.  She seems to revel in showing the audience real-life moments we’ve never seen on TV before.  (As a prime example: episode seven, “Toilet,” chronicles Sam’s preparations for her colonoscopy.)  Season three was the first season created without the involvement of Louis C.K., but the show didn’t miss a beat and, if anything, was even better in that it became more personal than ever for Ms. Adlon, completely infused with her life and her experiences and her perspective.  If you’ve never seen this show, you should remedy that immediately.  (Click here for my full review of season three.)… [continued]