Episode 31: Mankind and Spacewomen

Television Man by Aidan Morgan

“That’s one channel change for a television, one entire rotation for all televisionkind” —Arm Neilstrong, the first television on the moon

Now we approach the second summer of COVID-19, with its ambiguous restrictions, invisible currents of caution and pile of masks you’ve been meaning to wash. Until we’re all fully vaccinated, what is there to do but continue to hole up and curse the world outside your window (And it’s a world of dread and fear/ Where the only water flowing/ Is the bitter sting of tears). Oh, and watch a whole lot of television.

Heroes, Sort Of

As always, superhero shows clamour for your attention. If you can make it through 15 minutes of Jupiter’s Legacy (Netflix), which revolves around a group of aging heroes and their progeny, I invite you to call me up at 1-555-WHY-THOH. I could not make it through one more second of Josh Duhamel’s incredibly bad old-age makeup.

On the plus side, the utterly delightful DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (CTV) is back for a sixth season. Once an overly serious and downright dull addendum to the dense tome of the Arrowverse, Legends skidded off in its own direction at some point in season two, bouncing from one bizarre idea to the next like a pinball machine in an earthquake. It is my fondest wish that the climate apocalypse, should it come, will wipe away the entirety of human history and leave nothing behind but a DVD box set of Legends. That way, our descendants will know The Tale of Gary Green, Time Bureau Assistant Who Got His Nipple Bitten Off By An Angry Unicorn, Only To Have It Replaced By An Evil Nipple That Hypnotized People Into Following His Will, And That’s Just Two Or Three Episodes. Anyway, season six involves aliens spread across human history, which is somehow more down-to-earth than usual.

For a more mundane approach to heroism, try Apple TV+’s daring For All Mankind, which envisions an alternate history of the space race. Starring the repeatedly employed Joel Kinnaman (Robocop, Altered Carbon), For All Mankind imagines a world in which the Soviet Union gets a head start in the race to the moon. The changes ripple outward from there, with a scandal-free Ted Kennedy ascending to the Presidency and a crew of women astronauts. The show’s biggest crime may be its sprawling nature, which often neglects its most interesting characters (including Sonya Walger as a suffer-no-fools astronaut and Krys Marshall as the first Black woman in the space program) for episodes at a time. It also stumbles when it deals with systemic racism, often consigning the issue into blunt debates that must ultimately concede to stirring moments involving rockets. For All Mankind recently finished its second season, so binge away.

Wait. Maybe you wanted no heroes at all? In that case, may I interest you in Mare of Easttown (HBO/Crave), the Kate Winslet-starring series about murder and dysfunction in working-class Pennsylvania? I may? Good. Mare of Easttown makes the most of its prestige drama bona fides, with plenty of overcast skies and Winslet mastering a very specific accent. It may be worth a Crave subscription just to hear her say things like “the body was found by the wudder.”