Tom Wolfe had a book of the same name that was published in 1979. The Right Stuff is an Oscar-winning 1983 film that was also based on the book. The recently released series is about the beginnings of the U.S. space program, which started when NASA was formed in 1959.
If you have only seen the first American space travelers as black-and-white and color footage from the early ’60s, then this series; the book and the film is for you. It will give you a more well-rounded view of the “Mercury 7.”
THE RIGHT STUFF: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: The movie begins with two men lying awake in a dorm room. This is happening on “May 5, 1961, Cape Canaveral, Florida.”
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Under pressure by the advancement of the Soviet space program, NASA officials Bob Gilruth (Patrick Fischler) and Chris Kraft (Eric Ladin) were charged with finding test pilots that could be trained to be astronauts on the Mercury project, the country’s first attempts at manned space flight.
The movie depicts the lives of a few of the final seven people that would be chosen for Mercury. John Glenn (Patrick J. Adams) is one of the most famous names amongst all. He is a tea-totaler, is loyal to his wife and has broken the sound barrier. He knows that he’ll be put out to pasture at 38, but is also aware that there is no other aspect to explore.
Alan Shepard (Jake McDorman) is one of the best test pilots in the Navy’s history. He is the opposite of John Glenn; he’s daring in the air and on the ground, womanizing and drinking at every turn. He also knows just how good he is. When Glenn asks him if he thinks he’s going to make the final seven, Shepard says, “No. I’ll be the first in space.”
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Next in the picture is Gordon Cooper (Colin O’Donoghue); an ace Air Force test pilot who has just lost his wingman, and is struggling with family problems. When he gets a call to be among the 100-plus pilots for Mercury, he reaches out to his estranged wife and appeals to her to come back home with their kids so that NASA knows that he has a stable family.
These three pilots and others including Wally Schirra (Aaron Staton), Gus Grissom (Michael Trotter), Scott Carpenter (James Lafferty) and Deke Slayton (Micah Stock) are featured in the first episode. In the episode, they go through the one week of training and evaluation before being selected for the Mercury program.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The show reminds us of the 1983 movie, The Right Stuff.
The Right Stuff is now a series made by Disney plus under the Nat Geo nameplate. While we are not sure why was the movie remade, the first episode does not clear the question much.
The series might spend less time than the movie exploring Mercury 7’s roots. The series does not have the Chuck Yeager version. The series is going to be a rivalry of the buttoned-down Glenn and the maverick Shepard.
This is evident in the first scenes when they are waiting to see who goes in the first capsule to go into low orbit around the earth. Glenn opines on how silly it is that they’re eating filet mignon for breakfast, while Shepard just tells him that “we don’t have to be friends.”
That pretty much tells us who showrunner Mark Lafferty and EP Will Staples will focus on. This is about the two best pilots who are opposite in their personality, trying to be the first American in space. Gordon Cooper’s story will be shown gradually as the series progresses.
We do not see a point showcasing the other stories. One of the reasons probably can be that they want to tell the audience that these similar-looking male test pilots are full of and they’re not the crew-cut-bearing heroes that the media portrayed them as at the time.
All that is seen in the series is seen in the film too. The difference here is that you get to see Mad Men in space (it even has Aaron Staton donning the skinny lapels again), but with leaden dialogue and broadly-painted portrayals of these real-life heroes. Had the show been actual fiction instead of a fictionalized account of such a famous group, the series would have been more successful.
The Mercury program was just another nostalgia topic, making the participants into archetypes rather than the people they were.
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The fact that there is no depth in the first episode, not even any navel-gazing about why we were so obsessed with the space race; is disheartening. The series – The Right Stuff, felt like a bunch of monologues hunting for a plot.