FOR ALL MANKIND – Review by Susan Granger

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Among the many streaming services, Apple TV+ often gets lost, but several of its shows are among the best. One of my current favorites is For All Mankind, which poses the question: What if the Soviet Union had won the space race, reaching the moon before the United States?

Created by Ronald D. Moore (Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica), it’s a sprawling story, beginning in 1969, presenting an alternative historical reality in which the United States is struggling to keep up with the USSR in space exploration, interweaving cleverly ‘fictionalized’ real-life characters.

At NASA headquarters in Houston, the plot revolves around astronauts Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) and Gordo Stevens (Michael Dorman) who were piloting Apollo 10 but ordered not to land on the moon. That decision enabled a Russian cosmonaut to arrive first, infuriating then-President Nixon.

With NASA in turmoil, tempers flare. There’s scientist Wernher von Braun (Colm Feore) clashing with Deke Slayton (Chris Bauer), who heads the astronaut program, and Gene Kranz (Eric Ladin), the flight director who runs Mission Control.

A confidante of Von Braun, Margo Madison (Wrenn Smith) is the first woman at Mission Control, while Gordo’s restless test-pilot wife Tracy Stevens (Sarah Jones) becomes one of the first female astronauts, and Karen Baldwin (Shantel VanSanten, who bears a disconcerting resemblance to Julia Roberts) embodies Ed’s stoic wife.

There are also intriguing subplots: one involves a Mexican teenager (Olivia Trujillo) who immigrates to Texas, yearning to be part of NASA, another profiles Ellen Waverly (Jodi Balfour), a closeted lesbian astronaut.

Plus there’s ornery veteran test pilot Molly Cobb (Sonya Walger) with her artist husband Wayne (Lenny Jacobson) and determined Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall), the first black female astronaut.

What distinguishes this compelling series is how these complicated, conflicted characters are deftly delineated against a background of ruthless political turmoil, prejudice, sexism and “patriotism.”

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, For All Mankind is an enigmatic 8. The second season is even better than the first, and season three is already confirmed.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.