The Disney+ series, The Right Stuff, is about trailblazers, but it stands in a crowd as a TV show.
Shows about astronauts and space agencies seem to be back in vogue because For All Mankind, Space Force, Away, and Moonbase 8 made their debuts, too.
Mega franchises, Star Trek and Star Wars continue to boldly go and explore a galaxy far, far away.
And since the 1983 film version is beloved and iconic, the comparisons between the two were inevitable.
Yet, as I watched The Right Stuff, I wasn't comparing it to any of those other shows or the film. What I kept being reminded of, and wanted to watch instead, was HBO's From The Earth To The Moon.
Produced by Ron Howard and Tom Hanks (who also directed and acted in it), From The Earth To The Moon was HBO's 1998 mini-series chronicling the U.S. space program from NASA's reaction to Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space to the last Apollo mission.
In terms of depicting the events from the space race, there isn't a lot of direct overlap between the two series (this could change depending on whether The Right Stuff lasts for more than a season and chooses to go beyond its source material).
The Right Stuff Season 1 Episode 1 opens with Alan Shepard and John Glenn preparing for Shepard's launch.
Most of the season is about catching the audience up on the astronauts' journey to that day. Then the launch and flight occur on the season finale, The Right Stuff Season 1 Episode 8.
Within the first 20 minutes of From The Earth To The Moon Season 1 Episode 1, Al Shepard goes into space and comes back to Earth.
There's more overlap in terms of characters: Alan Shepard, Wally Schirra, Gus Grissom, Deke Slayton, and others are featured on both series. In comparing how both series portray the characters, something becomes obvious. From The Earth To The Moon's characters are far more memorable.
From The Earth To The Moon boasts a huge cast, and many roles are bit parts consisting of a couple of scenes and a few lines. Even so, those characters grab your attention and leave an impression.
Characters like Deke Slayton and Gus Grissom appear on every episode of The Right Stuff Season 1. After watching all eight episodes, I still had a hard time distinguishing Slayton from Grissom.
Wally Schirra is also one of the Mercury 7, but he's one of the least focused upon characters. Not even pranking Glenn on The Right Stuff Season 1 Episode 3 did much to make him a more fleshed-out character.
Schirra only appears on From The Earth To The Moon Season 1 Episode 3, but he's charismatic and dynamic, and when the credits roll, you feel like you know everything about the guy.
Something else dragging down The Right Stuff is the choice to build the series around Shepard and Glenn's rivalry over who will be the first American in space. It brings out the worst in both characters. It's repetitive. It's as exciting as watching paint dry.
Now, it's not like From The Earth To The Moon didn't touch upon the rivalries among the astronauts or depicted them as never caring about being the man who goes down in the history books.
From The Earth To The Moon Season 1 Episode 6 is the most similar to The Right Stuff because the conflict between Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin over who steps onto the moon first is very reminiscent of the conflict between Shepard and Glenn.
The difference is From The Earth To The Moon executes it better. For one thing, the Armstrong and Aldrin conflict only lasts for an episode. It's one-sided, and the characters are more sympathetic.
Armstrong's focus is on getting to the moon rather than becoming the first man to walk on it, making him all the more admirable. Aldrin obsesses about who should be first, but the script and Bryan Cranston's portrayal invite you to empathize with Aldrin rather than turn against him.
It's a great TV episode, but it's not From The Earth To The Moon's best episode. The honor belongs to From The Earth To The Moon Season 1 Episode 7, and it is the antithesis of The Right Stuff.
The Right Stuff is cynical and dour. From The Earth To The Moon Season 1 Episode 7 -- depicting the Apollo 12 mission -- is hilarious and fun.
The Right Stuff keeps talking about how Shepard and Glenn are above everyone else, but they come across as petty and selfish.
From The Earth To The Moon emphasizes how the Apollo 12 crew is not so different from the rest of us, making them all the more extraordinary.
The Right Stuff endorses an "every man for himself" attitude. From The Earth To The Moon Season 1 Episode 7 tells us that nothing, not even going to the moon, matters if you can't share it with the ones you love.
Love, optimism, and wonder are prevalent themes on From The Earth To The Moon. The joy of exploring the universe makes the series exciting to watch again and again. The absence of it on The Right Stuff makes the latter colder than space.
Over to you, TV Fanatics!
Are you a fan of The Right Stuff?
How does it stack up against other TV shows about astronauts?
Hit the comments below.
Becca Newton is a staff writer for TV Fanatic.