Genius, the new anthology series that looks at the life of Albert Einstein and debuts tonight on National Geographic, is better than most but not brilliant. Starring Geoffrey Rush as the older version of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and Johnny Flynn as the younger and somewhat swashbuckling Einstein, the 10-episode first installment executive produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer is at its core deceivingly conventional. With it also pulling double duty as Nat Geo’s first foray into scripted dramatic television, it could be a case of opening jitters for the already renewed series.
As I say in my review above, though, even when Genius gets a little Doctor Who jumping around in time, it remains solid and watchable. However, now matter how you do the numbers, it is ultimately unsurprising and lacking a certain shine. Despite the well-honed presence of Oscar and Emmy winner Rush as the marquee attraction and, in his small-screen scripted premiere, Howard directing the opening episode, Genius reveals just a fraction of its subject and relatively little of the science he pioneered. Certainly, the source material of Walter Isaacson’s 2007 book Einstein: His Life And Universe contains much the show could have further unlocked or explored – and I don’t merely mean theoretically.
Against the dangerous backdrop of the violent rise of Hitler and the Nazis in post-World War I Germany, plus the suspicions of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, the real dramatic equation for me is summed up in the strong performances of Samantha Colley and Emily Watson. With Colley as Einstein’s genius-in-her-own-right first wife Mileva Maric, and Watson as his loyal but much cheated upon second wife and cousin Elsa Einstein, they provide Genius‘ real emotional jolt. In those performances there is nothing relative, if you know what I mean.
In the interest of science and technology, click on my video review of Genius above. Then tell us what you think — will you be watching?