Disney+ is celebrating its first birthday by launching – pun intended – their new set-in-space show, The Right Stuff. Based on Tom Wolfe’s book, the eight-part series dramatizes the story of the seven astronauts of Nasa’s Project Mercury.
Unless you’ve made a conscious choice to ignore American pop culture your whole life – this might not be the worst idea? – you’ll likely be familiar with the story already: the Mercury Seven are the ones responsible for thousands of kids telling their eye-rolling parents that they were going to be an astronaut when they grew up. They really put space on the map – well some sort of map. So how do you make this universally known story new and exciting for TV? If you’re Disney+, you don’t. The thing is, The Right Stuff is just a bit obvious. We’ve got the classic trope of slick-haired, tight-trousered manly men, playing a game of ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ as they battle it out to be the boss’ favourite, meanwhile neglecting their wives and children. However, at least here we do actually hear from the aforementioned wives, who arguably, are the most interesting part of the show.
Lucy Mangan in The Guardian calls it “Mad Men in space,” but says it “doesn’t reach for the stars.” The Los Angeles Times’ Robert Lloyd questions “why they bothered” to remake a classic, saying: “rarely did I feel I was seeing something close to actual, any more than watching a middle-school performance of Cats might make you believe you were on Broadway.” In Variety, Caroline Framke comments The Right Stuff “suffers from doing a familiar story in an all too familiar way.”
Sounds like The Right Stuff went wrong somewhere.
First shown October 2020. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.