April 24, 2024

What Show Should You Watch? – Foundation (Apple TV+)

Welcome to a new column I am just calling “What show should you watch?” based on the assumption that people may Google some variant of that question. But cynical SEO plays aside, I think I can use it to recommend a bunch of different new and old shows that I genuinely do believe people should be watching. My friends know I do this for a living so I am also getting asked what people should be watching across their various streaming services. So, here we are, one recommendation a week, maybe?

I will use this inaugural column to promote Foundation, the Apple TV+ sci-fi show that just wrapped up its second season, meaning you can consume it all at once as we all sit around in a prayer circle for season 3 to be renewed. I’ve said many times that Apple TV+ has a shockingly good batting average, meaning the number of good shows it makes relative to its total number of shows is really, really high. More so than Netflix, Amazon or Max, certainly.

Foundation is a very, very loose adaptation of the Isaac Asimov series, where a whole lot has been changed from the almost unfilmable source material, but it’s been crafted into what is legitimately one of the best sci-fi shows I’ve ever seen. Yes, Battlestar Galactica and The Expanse level, I’d argue. At least by season 2.

The show’s core conflict is between the “Foundation” a group started by Harry Seldon, a man who uses mathematics-based “psychohistory” to try to predict and occasionally reshape the future, and “Empire,” a dynasty of hundreds of years of a single man, Cleon I, being cloned generationally, ruling over the galaxy’s largest stretch of worlds.

Seldon is played by Jared Harris of Mad Men and more recently Chernobyl fame. While he’s excellent, the star of the show is unequivocally Lee Pace’s Empire. Empire always has a “Dawn,” a teenage version of the original Emperor Cleon, a “Day” the current, middle-aged ruler and “Dusk,” the former Day in his Twilight years. Members of Empire rarely die, but if so, a new clone is simply “decanted” and replaced. When they age out instead, a new Dawn is brought out to start growing into the next Day.

Lee Pace is Day, and is just stunning in the role across two seasons now, in multiple variants of Day, no less. In season 1 he’s kind of above and beyond the rest of the show, though I’d argue in season 2, the rest of the show catches up to him in terms of quality.

Another impressive thing is that this show looks like a billion dollar production, but it’s budgeted at only $40 million, far less than rival series on Netflix and Amazon. What they’ve done with worldbuilding and the visuals here is incredible. It’s one of the most well-realized sci-fi universes we’ve seen on TV or film.

Maybe the show won’t land for everyone, but if you’re a sci-fi fan, I feel like you’d have to be impressed with Foundation. Let me know what you think.

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Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy.

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