You know those shows that you watch on a whim and end up falling completely in love with? For All Mankind on Apple TV+ is one of those for me. So I'm delighted to see Apple announce (opens in new tab) that it's making a fourth season just as I'm coming to the end of the third. It's gripping and occasionally heart-stopping television with big budgets and big ideas too.
For All Mankind is an alternative-timeline epic based around the NASA space programme and the people who power it, but in this timeline America doesn't make it to the moon first: Russia does. And that has some subtle and some significant impacts on the world, which the show expresses brilliantly through clever use of archive footage and the odd bit of fakery.
The space bits are amazing, but at its core this is a show about people – and it's a brilliant one. The current season has the full 100% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and I think it's fully justified. Here's why.
This is a space show that isn't really about space
Don't get me wrong. The space bits are great. But that's not what's keeping me bingeing For All Mankind. Across the three seasons we get to know lots of different characters, all of whom are fascinating, flawed and sometimes very funny, and their stories include joy, pain, triumph and tragedy.
It's a properly inclusive show too: the women are just as interesting, multi-faceted and important as the men; you're not getting a bunch of corn-fed, chisel-jawed flyboys in big suits shouting USA! USA! USA! If you enjoyed the Sandra Bullock and George Clooney film Gravity (which, if you haven't seen it, is a must-rent on Apple TV, Chili or Amazon Prime Video), this is cut from very similar cloth.
Given that seasons one to three have taken us to the moon and to Mars, what's next? Apple isn't saying. But if season four is up to the same standard as the first three seasons it's going to be must-watch TV for me: as someone who was absolutely obsessed with the space programme as a kid, For All Mankind's vision of a world where the space race never ended is utterly compelling.