Far superior than their first stab at original drama, the new “Manhattan” (WGN America, 9 p.m.) looks into the making of the atomic bomb in a desert in New Mexico, working on a deadline to beat Germans to the same plan.
The fine actor John Benjamin Hickey (from “The Big C” and Broadway’s “The Normal Heart”) stars as a scientist in the secretive locale. Olivia Williams (of “Rushmore”) is his wife. Though Robert Oppenheimer is part of the group, the others have made-up names, and not just for secrecy’s sake.
“Oppenheimer is the only historical figure who appears in the first episode, and there may be others who wend their way through the story over the course of the season,” show creator Sam Shaw told reporters at the TV Critics Association summer press tour earlier this month.
“But the sort of approach, or thinking, about this show and my thinking from the beginning is that although it is set in a world that is really carefully researched and we make painstaking efforts to be as faithful to history and science as we possibly can be, as someone who is neither an historian nor a physicist, but we keep them around to keep us honest, the model for us in ways, is E.L. Doctorow’s ‘Ragtime.’ It’s a, sort of, story that captures the emotional truth and as much of the texture of a time and place, although it’s populated with fictional characters.”