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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Right Stuff is a historical drama based on the 1979 book of the same name. It tells the story of the first astronauts -- the Mercury Seven -- who are portrayed as heroic, brave, and the "best" men for the job, but also flawed characters, possessing a number of less admirable traits and personal problems. Characters frequently drink -- sometimes excessively -- and smoke. Some also engage in extramarital affairs, a subject that's explored extensively in the series, and display sexist behavior. Language includes "s--t," "goddamn," "hell," "pecker," and "screwing." A pilot is shown losing control of his plane and crashing; the impact is not shown, but we later see his funeral, where his wife and young, distraught daughter are in attendance. Some blood is shown in a scene where a character sustains an injury to his hand.
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What's the story?
Based on the 1979 book of the same name -- which also served as the source material for the popular 1983 film -- THE RIGHT STUFF tells the true story of the first United States astronauts, dubbed the Mercury Seven, including John Glenn (Patrick Adams, Suits) and Alan Shepherd (Jake McDorman). The series begins with the formation of NASA, then follows the selection and training of the chosen recruits, including John Glenn and Alan Shepard, the first American in space. The series also digs deep into their unexpected celebrity, personal lives and problems, and professional conflicts.
Is it any good?
This series nails the historical drama, offering an engaging account of this remarkable, nation-defining event. But while its cast of star-gazing cowboys could have complemented and deepened the story, they too often feel like stock characters in shiny space suits. Kicking off mere hours before the first American astronaut is blasted into space, the story abruptly flashes back two years. It's a fun set-up and cliffhanger, though one that could possibly alienate anyone expecting a thrilling space adventure versus a historical drama.
Stick with it past that initial tease, though, and you'll discover the narrative leading up to that historic moment is nearly as absorbing as the launch itself. Given room to breath over the course of its episodic run, the series digs into everything from the exhaustive astronaut selection process and grueling training to the complicated personal lives of the chosen Mercury Seven. The latter provides an especially interesting exploration into the unexpected celebrity the men faced upon being selected and positioned as national heroes. Sadly, The Right Stuff stumbles a bit in its characterizations of the astronauts, rarely fleshing them out beyond a few, often stereotypical, traits. There's plenty of potentially juicy conflict between John Glenn (Patrick J. Adams) and Alan Shepard (Jake McDorman), for example, but too often they're reduced to the responsible boy scout and reckless playboy, respectively. What's worse, these two represent the most layered of the bunch, with the other five often coming off like interchangeable clones -- all handsome, confident white guys hoping to go to space.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how accurately The Right Stuff portrays the historical events. What elements does the series retain about the characters and events? How is it different? Does the story recount the story differently than previous adaptations?
What was the space exploration technology like back then compared to today? What sort of tools and equipment did NASA rely on in the late 1950's? How has space travel evolved since the events of the series?
Who were the Mercury Seven? How were they chosen and what roles did they play in the project? What accomplishments did they go on to achieve after the events of the series?
- Premiere date: October 9, 2020
- Cast: Patrick J. Adams, Jake McDorman, Colin O'Donoghue, James Lafferty
- Network: Disney+
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History, Science and Nature, Space and Aliens
- Character strengths: Communication, Courage, Curiosity, Perseverance, Teamwork
- TV rating: TV-14
- Available on: Streaming
- Last updated: October 22, 2020
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