The Apple TV+ launch lineup is headlined by four high-profile original series, but the best one is arguably For All Mankind. Among the other shows on Apple TV+, Dickinson takes a surrealistic approach while exploring the early years of poet Emily Dickinson; The Morning Show features an all-star cast, and See is headlined by a DCEU superstar. But it’s For All Mankind that hits all the check marks across the board.
For All Mankind stars Joel Kinnaman as Edward Baldwin, a disgraced astronaut who earns the chance to redeem his past mistakes. In this world, the Soviets have reached the moon first (with a female astronaut), and now NASA scrambles to keep the American public happy by assembling an all-female team of astronauts themselves. After a pre-mission tragedy, everyone is forced to reconsider the bigger picture, even if that means falling behind in the space race.
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Based on real events but fueled by an alternate history, For All Mankind lives up to the hype by focusing more on storytelling and filmmaking rather than on gimmicks. The premise is based on a universal concept – the great unknown – and the inherent conflict emerges from the same idea: the audience can’t possibly know what’s coming next. With the premise in place, the production value becomes especially important, and For All Mankind is indeed a visual stunner. Furthermore, the ensemble cast performances feel organic and natural; a balance of tragedy and comedy at all the appropriate places. In comparison to other Apple TV+ series, nothing about For All Mankind feels forced.
The Morning Show features huge stars like Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, but the story doesn’t necessarily explore new territory. It’s designed for popcorn thrills, all the while addressing important issues such as gender, race, and equality – a modern update of past network-themed shows. As For All Mankind, the series addresses the same issues, just on a much larger scale. In that sense, there’s more potential, as the story literally rewrites history, and with a team of female astronauts front and center. The drama extends far beyond the main setting (in this case, Earth); the implications aren’t quite clear. That’s the foundation for a good story.
For Apple TV+, Dickinson may end up being the awards season darling: fresh comedy, lively production design, and strong performances from young starlets Hailee Steinfeld and Ella Hunt. Here, the clever writing stands out, but that’s not necessarily a good thing from a binge-mode perspective. Dickinson tries too hard to be modern by overemphasizing the 19th century characters’ youthful dialogue, full of references to millennial concepts. That can be effective from week to week but can also feel too safe if not executed properly. In that sense, Dickinson needs to be more progressive and original with its comedy. With For All Mankind, the production value is similarly on point like Dickinson, though there’s not necessarily a huge star aside from Kinnaman. But with experienced female performers like Wrenn Schmidt, Jodi Balfour, Shantel VanSanten, and Sarah Jones leading the way, there’s a sense of performative polish – an important factor when executing the alternative history premise. For All Mankind educates audiences with its historical concepts, and entertains through restraint instead of ramped-up dialogue.
With See, there’s a unique science fiction premise in place that will appeal to its target fanbase, but it’s a little too much like The Hunger Games, the movie franchise directed by See filmmaker Francis Lawrence. The basic concepts have been covered before, and the pacing may be a little to slow for some Apple TV+ subscribers. For All Mankind does everything better, certainly in terms of performance. Overall, The Morning Show, Dickinson, and See will please the target demographics, and each series has something special to offer beyond the obvious. These series are by no means bad and shouldn’t be entirely skipped by Apple TV+ subscribers. But For All Mankind is the clear standout and shows the most potential moving forward. It’s the series that can earn enough buzz to make people want to subscribe to Apple TV+. The other shows are indeed entertaining, but seem more focused on hitting genre tropes. For All Mankind is less predictable and more thoughtful with its ideas.
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