By changing from WGN to WGN America, the network is not only offering up a new logo, but a dedicated intent on keeping pace with other channels with original content. The witchy drama Salem premieres this Sunday night, and one of its commercial breaks will be home to the above teaser trailer for their upcoming historical drama Manhattan. You might think a series about the creation of the atomic bomb would be more explosive, but it looks like creator Sam Shaw (Masters of Sex) will be drawing out the personal politics of this story, albeit fictional ones.
I think the show’s tagline “Nuclear. Family.” should get some kind of a Concise Simplicity Award, as it tells viewers pretty much all they need to know without resorting to silly puns or bombast. Some families can barely hold it together when atomic bombs aren’t involved, so I can’t imagine these characters’ lives being any less tumultuous. We don’t know that much about where the plot is going, and the teaser doesn’t really improve upon that, but it certainly looks impressive regardless.
John Benjamin Hickey (The Big C) stars as the scientist in charge of the Manhattan Project, the 1940s governmental research and development project that led to the first atomic bombs. Daniel Stern will play a political-minded mentor to a young team of scientists, while Olivia Williams, John Trejo, Ashley Zukerman, Rachel Brasnahan and more will be seen in roles we’re not quite sure of yet. Casting is apparently still going on, as Deadline reports Patch Adams star Daniel London has been added to the cast as J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist often referred to as “the father of the atomic bomb.”
One has to wonder just how much of this teaser is actual footage from the pilot, and what was created simply for the promo. It looks quite unlike most TV shows, with cinematic long angles juxtaposed with pushed-in close-ups on faces that wouldn’t look out of place in a music video. The tone is mysterious, especially when combined with the voiceover, in which someone (maybe Stern?) is laying out the ground rules for the project, saying that the truth cannot be told, and that lying and sacrifices are the only choices. Potential spoiler alert: someone is going to find out about everyone else’s secrets.
Currently filming in New Mexico, Manhattan’s 13-episode season will premiere on WGN America this July. Stay tuned for a more specific premiere date, or maybe we’ll just spell it out in mushroom clouds.