"The Right Stuff," Tom Wolfe's epic history of NASA's early days, inspired a great 1983 movie, but even a three-hour-plus running time left out a lot of great stories from the book.
Disney+ and National Geographic thought it was time to revisit the story and have announced an eight-episode series that will take another shot at telling it. We're guessing that eight episodes equals eight hours of TV, so the show will have about 2½ times as much room to tell the story.
Wolfe's book does a great job of balancing the technical research and dangerous training with the Mercury space program's marketing of the astronauts and their families as American heroes, even as the men themselves and their colleagues in the test pilot community realized just how little piloting an astronaut was being asked to do.
The culture has changed since the 1983 movie, so a new series seems likely to recognize the "reality show" culture that the original space program fostered. There were marketing men, an exclusive deal with Life magazine and incredible perks from car dealers and real estate developers.
The Americans were playing catch-up with the USSR's space program, and the scientists' projected timelines just didn't fit with the political necessities, a theme that should resonate with viewers in 2020.
The series stars Patrick J. Adams ("Suits") as Maj. John Glenn and Jake McDorman ("What We Do in the Shadows," "Lady Bird") as Lt. Cmdr. Alan Shepard.
The rest of the Mercury Seven includes Colin O'Donoghue ("Once Upon a Time") as Lt. Gordon Cooper, Aaron Staton ("Mad Men") as Wally Schirra, James Lafferty ("The Haunting of Hill House") as Scott Carpenter, Micah Stock ("Brittany Runs a Marathon") as Deke Slayton and Michael Trotter ("Underground") as Gus Grissom.
The wives will be just as important as the astronauts in an expanded telling of the history. The series features Nora Zehetner ("Brick") as Annie Glenn, Eloise Mumford ("Fifty Shades of Grey") as Trudy Cooper and Shannon Lucio ("Prison Break") as Louise Shepard.
Appian Way's Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson are executive producers. Mark Lafferty ("Castle Rock," "Halt and Catch Fire") is showrunner.
Lafferty says,"'The Right Stuff' evokes the wonder and awe of the moment we first escaped the bounds of our only home and ventured into the unknown. But the show is as much about who we are today as it is about our historic achievements. At a time when the world is confronted with significant challenges, this story reminds us that what seems impossible today can become the triumph of tomorrow."
There's not yet an exact premiere date and "fall" seems like it's a long time away, especially when most of us can't remember what March 2020 was like. We'll have more news about "The Right Stuff" as the release approaches.
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