Briefly noted: a WGN series finds noir in the bomb project


John Benjamin Hickey and Olivia Williams in a promotional graphic for Season Two of Manhattan. Copyright: ©2015 WGN America.

So many networks, so many shows. Last year, a cable network called WGN America launched a series called Manhattan (often rendered with parentheses around the middle “a”), which is a curious thing—a noir-ish 40s drama taking place amid the Manhattan Project. I can’t think of any parallels for what this show is doing—which doesn’t mean there aren’t any—but the idea makes sense. A climate of secrecy and suspicion, anxiety about the ultimate aims one is serving, the pressure on relationships that must arise in an environment of intense work—all this can lend itself to noir.

I’ve seen only the intriguing pilot episode of Manhattan, which is now in its second season, but having mentioned it in an email this morning I realized it’s the sort of thing that fits the interests of this blog. You can find an introduction to the show, written by its current historical adviser, here. Those with a taste for cinematography may want to check a Q&A with the show’s director of photography here. Incidentally, the music for the second season is being composed by cellist Zoë Keating, whose work I admire, along with Jeff Russo.

It appears that you can’t watch past episodes of Manhattan for free, contrary to how some cable networks treat their shows. However, it is available to subscribers of Amazon Video and Hulu, and the first season can be rented from Netflix. The show’s web page is here.


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