Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer 2014 TCA: WGN America's Manhattan

WGN America is a network that not everyone knows about (not every television provider carries it), and has only one original series to date: Salem. Today they presented their next original series, Manhattan, which takes place in the 1940s and premieres later this month. And, not only is it a period show, it's also set in a very specific place: Los Alamos, New Mexico, at the dawn of the age of the atomic bomb.

A town not even on the map is suddenly full of great minds filled with secrets and lies at every turn. Little by little, audiences will learn of the darkness behind the "nuclear family," as EP Thomas Schlamme noted that the approach to the series was more as if they "were making a 13-hour movie," without needing to front-load the viewer with cliffhangers. But, at the same time, the drama may certainly last longer, as creator Sam Shaw doesn't see the series necessarily wrapping up with the end of World War II because "it's a story about a birth of an era." Add in the fact that everything they've done so far they've made without the help of the US government (who undoubtedly would have specific source material for such a show), and I think there's some real possibilities ahead.

Although this "story of incredible ingenuity and aspiration and high-flown optimism" (Shaw) seems full of action, there will definitely be more sober moments in the program. For instance, antisemitism will be "very present" in the show, as "a lot of the characters are Jewish and are in some way being used by a country that didn't really trust them and have a place for them." Similarly, the effects of radiation were also hinted at being explored in the drama.

Fortunately, Shaw also added that "it is set in a world that is really carefully researched and we make painstaking efforts to be as faithful to history and science as we possibly can be," so history buffs need not be fearful of desecration to an important American story.

Watch for Manhattan to premiere on WGN America (ch 33/775 for Xfinity folks) on Sunday, July 27th at 9pm ET
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