The premise of For All Mankind is an alternate history of the U.S. space program, where the Soviets are the first to put a man on the moon (and soon after, a woman) in 1969, which completely changes the space race for America. Now, the U.S. is playing catch-up and is worried that the Soviets will build a military base on the moon and begin weaponizing their early position. From that first episode, the show is set in an alternate reality from what we actually experienced, though many (not all) of the real historical events that occurred are a backdrop here. The real focus, though, is on the engineers and astronauts of NASA, as they move forward, fueled by political forces that are constantly pushing them to do more and faster. Women astronauts become a part of the program, starting in the early 70's, and in this world, water is discovered on the moon, raising the stakes even higher. The real political, fashion, and cultural trends of the 70's are featured here, including the very real prejudices against being gay. This show features a huge ensemble cast with many talented actors, some playing real-life people and some made-up characters. Joel Kinnaman, featured in many top shows recently like Hanna, Altered Carbon, and House of Cards, plays Edward Baldwin, a fictional top NASA astronaut and commander of Apollo 10. Michael Dorman plays Gordo Stevens, who was a real NASA astronaut but here has a much lengthier public career. And Sonya Walger, one of our favorites from Lost, here plays Molly Cobb, one of the first female astronauts (and one of the most skilled of any gender).
This show works on every level and is one of our current favorites. It is a thriller, with some truly suspenseful scenes when the astronauts of various missions are in peril. It is a political drama, featuring the inner workings of NASA and the pressures put on the space program from the President (there are some surprises there). And it is a family drama, zooming in on the personal lives of the astronauts and others in NASA and the unique pressures put on their families. It is, at different times, heart-stopping, heart-warming, and heart-breaking. And it's all played out against the backdrop of the 1970's, with its colorful fashions and decor and unique mix of opportunities both opening up and remaining closed. For instance, it's fascinating to see how quickly the U.S.changes its tune and accepts women astronauts after a Soviet woman lands on the moon, yet how unrelenting and horribly intolerant and bigoted those same leaders are about gay people being a part of NASA. The plot is twisty and constantly surprising. We love everything about this show and can't wait to see what happens next!
There are currently two seasons of For All Mankind available on Apple TV, with a third season planned (luckily, my husband just bought a new iPhone, too). We have just finished season one, and each episode continues to move us in new ways. The episodes vary in length, as is becoming more common on streaming services, but most are at least an hour long.