Why Aren’t More People Watching ‘For All Mankind’?

The science fiction series For All Mankind, which recently wrapped up its fourth season on Apple TV+, explores an alternate timeline in which the United States and the Soviet Union establish a Mars colony in the 1990s. Science fiction editor John Joseph Adams was impressed with the series’ quality and ambition.

“It’s a fantastic show,” Adams says in Episode 560 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It’s definitely one of the best science fiction shows ever, and everyone should definitely watch it.”

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley agrees that For All Mankind is a first-rate work of science fiction. “It’s one of the only shows on television that presents the idea that the future could be better, and humanity could progress, that competence and intellect and trying to make the world a better place could actually work, and could actually have a positive impact,” he says.

For All Mankind has received strong reviews, but so far the show hasn’t attracted the kind of audience it deserves. Screenwriter Rafael Jordan thinks the show’s innovative concept—an alternate history story that unfolds over decades—might be a bit too challenging to communicate to potential viewers. “There seems to be a lack of awareness about what the show is exactly,” he says. “I’ll admit I was late to the show. I don’t think I started watching until Season 2, because I didn’t really realize what it was.”

Writer Sara Lynn Michener hopes the show attracts enough viewers to continue through its planned seven-season arc. “A lot is asked of the viewers in this show, and I actually really like that,” she says. “But it also causes me to be concerned that we’re not going to get the seven seasons that we deserve.”

Listen to the complete interview with John Joseph Adams, Rafael Jordan, and Sara Lynn Michener in Episode 560 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Sara Lynn Michener on Dev Ayesa:

They had so many options in terms of “let’s explore the tech bro.” They could have gone the Silicon Valley method, they could have made it this ridiculous character, they could have made it an obviously evil character. But they made it a minority character who has a genuinely fascinating backstory and a genuinely fascinating character. He exudes confidence and peace and wisdom, in this really scary way. So there are scary aspects to the character, for sure, and you’re kind of wondering all the time, “Is he evil or is he good?” … And the result is that this feels like a much more normal, much more realistic character.

John Joseph Adams on Seasons 3 and 4:

I feel like Seasons 1 and 2 were largely perfect, and I really struggled to come up with criticisms, but with Seasons 3 and 4 I definitely found it easy to come up with criticisms. I feel like the science fiction/space aspects are still good, but then the drama side of things, I felt like that’s where it isn’t as good, almost like they had the same team who was working on all of the speculative stuff, but they have a different team that’s working on the drama stuff. I mean, I don’t imagine they have separate teams for that, but that’s what it kind of feels like.

Rafael Jordan on Season 5:

I was able to attend a Season 4 finale screening here in LA, which was fantastic, and they did talk about future seasons a bit. They definitely have full confidence that they’re going to see it through. I don’t think they’ve gotten the official word yet, but they’re definitely moving forward. … During the Q&A [Joel Kinnamon] went on at length about the [old age makeup]. At one point, after he’s just gone on about how hard it was to go through, he’s like, “Oh my god, I just realized I’m going to have to do it all again next season.” There was a moment where I think the producers were like, “You just told everyone you’re definitely going to be back for the whole season.”

David Barr Kirtley on science fiction:

One of the reasons I really liked Season 4 so much is because it showed these science fiction things that I grew up reading about, like asteroid mining and Martian colonies—realistic Martian colonies, not like Total Recall Martian colonies—that you just don’t really see so much in film and TV, the more grounded kind of things like that. … People say, “It’s just like The Expanse.” Well no, it’s like this whole tradition of science fiction that had all these things. Maybe if you primarily watch movies and TV, that’s your closest reference point, but they’re both drawing on this really long tradition.

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