Snapshots: For All Mankind

I’ve just started watching For All Mankind, an original series from Apple. Thankfully, it’s more than just product placement for Apple (which is more than can be said for Swan Song, an embarrassing ad masquerading as an Oscar-worthy sci-fi drama). It’s a compelling what-if that’s equal parts Mad Men and [insert tv show about space].

The premise is brilliantly simple and surprisingly cynical: Russia gets to the moon first. How does America react? The answer: America refuses to admit defeat, and keeps setting the bar for the space race higher. Seeing the obvious denial, the quest for military space dominance masquerading as patriotism, the tokenizing masquerading as equality (Russia sent a woman to the moon before we did, and Nixon is embarrassed by NASA’s lack of women)… It’s all very entertaining and plausible, albeit cynical.

The actual character drama is fine, if not memorable. The various storylines check all the boxes with few surprises. The real thrill is seeing the larger alternate narrative unfold. And from what I’ve read, the timeline spans decades, which allows for even more expansive world-building. Honestly, it’s the sort of show that I may just read the synopsis for, instead of actually sitting through the episodes – but for now, it’s good background noise, even if the concept is more compelling than the execution.