Sunday, May 7, 2017

Pilot Review: Genius

Genius (National Geographic)
Premiered April 25 at 9pm

Here we have one of the biggest premieres of the season, airing on a network that isn’t typically known for its original narrative programming. One of the reasons for that is that it features a big name, Geoffrey Rush, making the transition to television after a successful career in film for a project that’s obviously something people want to watch. The bigger thing is that, though this show will likely always be associated with Albert Einstein just like “American Crime Story” will forever be remembered for making O.J. Simpson a major topic of conversation again, this is just the first season of what’s sure to be a long-running anthology series focusing on different great minds each season. This opening installment did a good job balancing its presentation of Einstein in a pre-war Germany and a much younger version of the physicist, played by Johnny Flynn, struggling to be allowed to find his purpose when his genius couldn’t be understood without things like a college degree and proof of more widespread knowledge. The performances by both Rush and Flynn are undeniably strong, and there was nothing more emphatic than the sight of a Nazi child chasing after Einstein so that he could autograph his swastika because he too wanted to grow up to be a physicist. Vincent Kartheiser’s episode-ending appearance as Hoover’s lackey, there to ensure that Einstein isn’t an enemy of the state that the United States should not admit, makes whatever comes next considerably more complicated, and that’s what we’re sure to discover in the coming episodes. This show is pretty strong – I’m just not sure it’s going to be something that I need to watch

How will it work as a series? There are ten episodes that have been commissioned, and I feel like there’s so much to know and learn about Einstein since I really don’t know anything about the history of one of the most famous names in science. Mixing in historical drama about the path of Germany and the world at the time should help give it some important context.
How long will it last? Well, the show being renewed for a second season, whose subject is supposed to be revealed during the season one finale, ahead of this debut is definitely good news. This show did very well with older audiences, and I think that’s just where its network wants it to be strong. I’d expect a handful of seasons from this anthology series.

Pilot grade: B+

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