MANHATTAN SEASON 1 BLU-RAY
LIONSGATE HOME ENTERTAINMENT, NOT RATED, $49.97
WGN America came out of nowhere with the smash hit TV series, Manhattan. It chronicles the exciting events leading up to the USA detonating the first atomic bombs. While being more dramatic than factual, there’s enough juicy technical minutia to keep the nerds happy and dances with social issues that are still relevant today. I wouldn’t recommend it for children/teens, but there is something for every adult who catches this show.
Manhattan uses a tasty blend of real and fictional characters. Robert J. Oppenheimer (the father of the atomic bomb) is portrayed, as well as Frank Winter (loosely based on the real Seth Neddermeir), and lots of fictional characters to add drama. The interactions and portrayal of life on a secret base/town – throwing geniuses, housewives, scientists, and soldiers in together – is quite intriguing. There is also a level of McCarthyism that runs rampant on the base. Fear of German spies forces the government to keep all information segregated between the scientists, often leading to cyclical chains of command and impossible deadlines, creating underlying dread and tension throughout the season. Add some spectacular cinematography and the fully realized 1940’s setting, and you have an incredibly captivating show. Manhattan feels like it belongs on AMC. Well done, WGN.
Extras include a trio of optional commentary tracks highlighting the episodes “You Always Hurt the One You Love” and “Perestroika” with director Thomas Schlamme and creator Sam Shaw; and “The Second Coming” with actor Daniel Stern and producer Dustin Thomason. There is also a biography on Oppenheimer that is quite interesting and unfortunately only 10 minutes long. I would have loved to get at least 30 minutes covering more than just Oppenheimer – talking about the real town, what life was like, more about building the bomb – in History Channel quality. This is all new to WGN, so maybe next time.
If the Manhattan Project and shows like Mad Men interest you, Manhattan Season 1 is worth picking up and binge-watching before Season 2 airs this summer.