Once upon a time, when Mad Men and The Americans were the hottest things on TV, a show called Manhattan was quietly weaving its own tale about the creation of the atomic bomb. But alas, it seemed no one was tuning in.
Fast forward to last summer, when the first teaser for Oppenheimer hit the screens. It was like a siren's call, beckoning viewers back to the forgotten drama of Manhattan. Packed with familiar faces who have since become fan favorites, what better way to gear up for Christopher Nolan's much-awaited summer blockbuster? Launched in 2014 on WGN America, Manhattan arrived at a time when the TV world was obsessed with complex, period characters. It didn't matter if they were real or fictional, as long as they were intriguing and complicated. This trend was evident in shows like Mad Men, The Americans, and Halt and Catch Fire. Fast forward again to today, and it's hard to recall any original dramas that aired on the now-defunct WGN network. Even I mistakenly believed that Manhattan had aired on AMC, probably because it fit their brand so well and is currently available on AMC+.
In 2014, Kevin Fallon penned a glowing review for Manhattan in The Daily Beast, yet noted that most TV consumers didn't even know what WGN America was. Ironically, his words still ring true today, as the show was canceled after its second season. Flash forward to 2021, when news broke that Cillian Murphy would be trading his Peaky Blinders newsboy cap for a J. Robert Oppenheimer’s porkpie hat in Nolan's latest project. But what exactly is Manhattan and why should you give it a chance? Well, without giving too much away, the show delves into Oppenheimer’s tumultuous romantic entanglements and wider conspiracy theories that remain unresolved. Unlike Oppenheimer's trailer which has a "getting the gang together" vibe, Manhattan plunges you right into the story after Los Alamos has been built. Both titles feature a cast of familiar faces from other popular projects, making Manhattan a paradise for character actor fans.
Unfortunately, Manhattan ended after its second season, leaving fans wanting more. The series' launch on an unknown platform, when viewers were already flocking to Netflix, may have affected its success. However, it's not too late to add Manhattan to your summer viewing list. Whether you watch it before or after Nolan's epic, or even alongside Barbie's explosive adventures, one thing's for sure - Manhattan is worth your time.