WGN America's 'Manhattan' examines modern political problems through a historical lens

manhattan-tv-press-tour-gi.jpgWGN's second original scripted series, "Manhattan," looks to be one of the most intriguing new summer shows. Examining the brilliant minds who created America's first atom bomb during World War II, the project uses the rich political landscape to explore some subjects the United States currently finds itself facing.

"It's an interesting way to do a commentary on our society now," star Daniel Stern, who plays Glen Babbit, says at "Manhattan's" summer TV press tour panel. "Rather than directly talking about secrets or our NSA spying or our decisions about how we go to war or what wars we fight or how we fight them or drone activity, all the things that are happening now, it's an interesting way to bring up those topics but with a little distance, with a little fiction between it and give us a chance to have that discussion."

Even the discussion of nuclear power is as important now as it was half a century ago. Stern says he's happy "Manhattan" brings that subject to the forefront for discussion.

"I love the nuclear issue coming up again, because I feel as a citizen here I've been lulled," Stern says. "Thousands and thousands of these nuclear bombs, they're still there. They're still updated every day. There are still trigger systems and codes ready to launch these things, and that conversation never happens anymore in this country."

He notes, "That genie still is not back in the bottle. It's expanding and growing at a more dangerous pace."

Creator Sam Shaw feels that "Manhattan" could serve as a good Isaac Asimov novel because of its content and its larger-than-life science fiction elements. He admits that the series doesn't "subscribe to a set of hard and fast rules" about the way it deals with merging historical fact with fiction, but that they're "trying to create a show that has scientific verisimilitude, but also doesn't rob the grave of history."

Star John Benjamin Hickey, who plays Frank Winter, finds that he was able to relate to the cynicism his character had during wartime because so many Americans have that same sort of sentiment in the present day.

"We live in such a cynical and bitter time now politically," he says. "Think how bitter and cynical and existentially and psychically exhausted these guys must have been, and still the idea that the Germans and Hitler might get us. Just imagine how that must be like to get up every morning and know how united your country is in one common pursuit. It's horrible because it's war, but it's such a great cause: To protect the American way of life. I love the idea of going back there and visiting that."

"Manhattan" premieres on July 27 at 9 p.m. ET on WGN.
Photo/Video credit: WGN