Sometimes, the stress of the day gets in the way of your job. Things you love to do seem impossible.
It's been one of those weeks for me. I've struggled to write a review for a show that I enjoyed greatly, and that's a problem. But reflecting a little bit reminded me why reviewing AWAY is so important: it's all about hope.
Yes, this is a review for AWAY, premiering on Netflix this Friday, August 4.
AWAY is a beautifully filmed show with drama that spans the world and many generations of families struggling to stay together despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
There is a space race for Mars, and the entire world has collaborated to get there. Collaboration. Can you even believe it?
That might be the toughest thing to believe when watching AWAY, not that we'd begin a trip to Mars, but that we'd work together with the world to do it. In 2020, here in the US and around the world, we all seem more distant than ever. But this story of hope proves that when you share similar goals, you can find a way to achieve them.
In the case of AWAY, the goal is simple: get to Mars.
In our world, it's a little more difficult to grasp our commonalities sometimes, but we do have them, and maybe watching a broad group doing what we've failed to do will inspire us. Ironically, we can only hope that it does, indeed, give us hope.
AWAY is a collaborative effort all the way.
Heavyweight performers Hilary Swank and Josh Charles lead an international cast with international aspirations.
Jason Katims (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights) is joined by frequent collaborator Jessica Goldberg (Parenthood, The Path) for a pilot written by Andrew Hinderaker based on an original article by Chris Jones, and together, they form the foundation for the new Netflix series that documents the measures needed to visit Mars.
It's not easy to peg the appropriate genre for AWAY, but it might be the ultimate workplace drama. Balancing work and family has always generated discussion, and AWAY focuses as much on family and the ramifications of a life dedicated to the pursuit of intergalactic travel as it does the journey itself.
And that's not a surprise, given the pedigree of the writers and producers. Parenthood is one of the best family dramas of all time, and Katims executive produces AWAY.
Parenthood vet and AWAY showrunner Goldberg shared with us that she used her own work/life experience to tap into the emotions driving the characters. Swank and Charles play a married couple with a teenage daughter to raise, a girl who needs her mother at a very crucial time in her life.
Mom taking off for a trip that may or may not have a happy ending is traumatic for any child, but for a teenage girl, it seems infinite.
They're the central family but by no means the only family. As noted earlier, AWAY features an international cast. There is representation from China, Russia, Ghana, among others reminding us that space travel is a worldwide ambition, one that would have a lot more meaning if we all did it together.
There are spotlight episodes with all of the characters highlighting their personal accomplishments and struggles, often interweaving how their families either encouraged their interest in science or how they balance the immense pressure of greatness while raising a family of their own.
The characters are fully drawn emotional and intellectual beings with high expectations for themselves and those around them, and AWAY perfectly portrays what could happen when you put a handful of people like that into a capsule for months on end.
Science often seems like a singular pursuit, one in which you only excel in you're willing to go to great lengths, sacrificing much to get ahead. That seems doubly true in the space field, as a minimal number of people ever get the opportunity to man a space flight of any kind, let alone one to Mars.
Each of AWAY's astronauts has a specialty, but that doesn't mean that they don't need to work together at every level to make the difficult and lengthy trip.
Adding their myriad personal issues to the fortitude needed to put their families aside for their career aspirations to represent humanity creates a pressure cooker situation where the smallest mistake means not only the end of the mission but their lives.
As you would expect with a mission to Mars, there is a lot of tension between the astronauts and their respective countries to maintain professionalism and represent their people with grace.
Even with the breadth of collaboration, there is still the desire for each individual and country to shine brighter than the other. It's likely that, as the series progresses, that will change. A genuine joint effort is the only way forward with an incredible leap for humanity.
The levels on which the astronauts are expected to temper their expectations for individual excellence contrasts beautifully with their personal predicaments, none of which I want to share, lest I ruin the trajectory of the story.
AWAY also features breathtaking space scenes, proving they're sparing no expense for special effects. They will have you on the edge of your seat in anticipation as various missions succeed or fail, and you're never reminded that you're watching a TV series instead of a feature film.
We've always had a fascination with space, and in 2020, we're blessed with a plethora of space shows on television.
AWAY is the latest endeavor to expose the lives of astronauts and their missions to visit other lands, joining For All Mankind on Apple TV+ and the upcoming Nat Geo/Disney+ series, The Right Stuff.
AWAY successfully blends family drama, workplace intrigue, and our fascination space, satisfying viewers on every level.
We'll be dropping reviews of every episode during the weekend of the premiere, and we also have an in-depth interview with Jessica Goldberg, getting her thoughts on many different aspects of the new series.
AWAY features the world as it should be. There are always kinks to iron out, but with each collaborative success story, AWAY inhabits a near-future in which getting along is more than a pipe dream.
AWAY drops on Netflix Friday, September 4.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.