I can't see this series' title without expecting Jackie Gleason to show up, but I'm glad they went with this title rather the source material book's title of "A Man on the Moon", because when this show first arrived, we were but a year away from the film "Man on the Moon", and this series is cheesy enough without having the thought of Jim Carrey as Andy Kauffman attached to it. No, I'm just poking fun at this series' sentimentality, because, seriously, they sure pumped a lot of overbearing dramatic intensity into this dramatic epic about a bunch of guys just, well, going to space, and besides, this series' actual title isn't exactly cleansed of fluffiness, seeing as how it is inspired by a Jules Verne novel. That's right, Verne, just to show you how much you misfired when you said that a journey to the Moon is science "fiction", this series actually ripped off your titles, though I don't think anyone will notice, seeing as how this series is more of a rip-off of "Apollo 13". Actually, perhaps I should take that back, because I don't really think it's ripping someone off if the most important people behind the thing that's being "ripped off" are attached to the "rip-off", for although Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Tom Hanks could be more involved in this project, they're still so deep into this effort that Clint Howard actually shows up (Dopie has got to stick with Opie). At last, Tom Hanks has an opportunity to make it to the moon, but all he ends up doing is standing around with that darn sculpture of Apollo, talking about the people who actually go make it to the Moon, then figuring out how to forcibly tack on, "from the earth to the Moon", at the end of each prologue. Hey, maybe Hanks himself made the decision to not play an astronaut again, because half of the people playing astronauts in this series are so forgotten that they may have actually ended up in space, which isn't to say that the other half of the astronaut cast have it that much better, because they didn't get especially impressive roles after this series, even though it was acclaimed... for some reason. No, people, I do like this series, I'm just expressing how my expectations ended up being left in orbit, unable to land for several reasons.
Prior to the finale, each episode opens with the great Tom Hanks himself, as the show's host, walking out in front of a sculpture of the god Apollo and delivering an introduction that tosses a whole bunch of information at you in a documentarian fashion that completely contradicts the series' dramatization storytelling format, and that throws you off a bit, yet, as you can imagine, the forced documentary storytelling style really dies down once the episodes enter their body, which isn't to say that you should get too carried away with your expectations of there being less questionable documentary-esque stylistic choices after the intros, because what ends up being a huge problem with this series is its all too often crowbarring documentary storytelling touches into the midst of traditional dramatic storytelling in an inconsistent fashion that never works, whether when you're faced with an obnoxious overemphasis on the presence of historical figures and places, - usually through the random presentation of names via subtitles - or with forced archived footage in the midst of dramatizations (They sometimes even have the audacity to try and make the series actually kind of like footage of the 1960s) that commit the ultimate biopic sin of betraying dramatic resonance for the sake of thoroughly reminding you of this drama's being merely an interpretation of events that you may already know all about, if not with the addition or dismissal of other distinct storytelling style touches between episodes (For example, the episodes outside of the heavily narrated fifth, sixth and twelfth feature little, if any narration, and the final episode just goes ahead and becomes an all-out pseudo-documentary) that further exacerbates the unevenness in storytelling structure, whose juggling of documentary and dramatization storytelling styles is messy in a way that I find difficulty in fully describing. It's difficult to describe what exactly this series' storytelling does without making the problems sound light, but make no mistake, every stylistic choice made throughout this docudrama is questionable, sometimes embarrassingly so, resulting in glaring inconsistency that distances you and evidently attempts to substitute exposition with reminders of historical fact you may or may not know about, because when this series isn't tossing in documentary touches to let you know what's going on, it says nothing, just dashes along with little development, who limitations would be more forgivable if this series didn't have [u]more than enough[/u] time to flesh things out. Arguably even more problematic than the hurrying is, of course, the bloating, because there's only so much to this miniseries' subject matter, yet the final product still comes out running twelve episodes that total out to over eleven hours worth of material, and as you can imagine, a lot of that material is excessive, until you end up with a monotonously, if not aimlessly overblown focus whose taking too long to meditate upon bits and pieces of this saga stresses the episodicity through the consistent narrative aspects that could have made the final product more coherent. The series' focus is all over the place, and that's largely because pacing is all over the place, flinging the final product all about in an inconsistent fashion that thins focus almost into dissipation, so if nothing else is wrong with the series, it's too unfocused to be all that compelling, no matter how much it desperately tries to compel. As if there aren't enough questionable beats in this stylistically inconsistent, unevenly paced and barely focused opus, whether when it's cheesily blowing the heart of score work way out of proportion, or simply overplaying the depths of this drama, the series is consistently unsubtle with its atmosphere, having enough inspiration to win you over more often than not through all of the lapses in genuineness, yet nevertheless making most dramatic beats sentimental and the more intense beats kind of overbearing with a very TV type of storytelling sensibility that reflects a certain something that this series is nothing if not: overambitious. The series wants so desperately to be unique and compelling as an exhaustive dramatic meditation upon America's triumphant experiences on the Moon, and sure, more often than not, things work well enough to make a decent saga, but all of the overblown inspiration that goes into fleshing out this subject matter emphasizes the abundance of natural shortcomings (After Apollo 11 touches down in episode six, the second half of the series gets to be surprisingly and near-frustratingly formulaic and inconsequential; for goodness' sake, the final episode partially focuses on the making of "Le Voyage dans la Lune" for some... stupid reason) and the wealth of consequential shortcomings, from near-embarrassingly questionable stylistic and pacing issues, to glaring sentimentality, until the overrated and overblown final product is rendered ever so lucky to escape from mediocrity. Of course, the fact of the matter is that, in the long run, the series does escape mediocrity, being frequently and heavily damaged by natural limitations in intrigue and questionable storytelling, but ultimately carried to decency on the backs of anything from storytelling areas that genuinely work, to musical aspects that genuinely work.
While we're hardly looking at an exhaustingly ceaseless showcase of music throughout this, like, eleven-hour affair, quite a bit in this series ends up being pretty reliant on the musical aspects, particularly the liveliness that could and, well, quite frankly does save the final product, so this series cannot afford to be underwhelming in the musical departments, thus, it makes sure that if nothing else is delivered, then it is decent tunes, carrying an unoriginal soundtrack that may get to be a bit too commercial to not feel a little like a jab at the nostalgics who lived through the timeframe portrayed in this docudrama, but still offers plenty of good classic tunes from modern music's golden eras of the '60s and '70s, while when it comes to the original touches, well, that's where things get complicated, because the score work of this series is not only formulaic, but typically overblown, and played with in a fashion that proves to be key in the supplementation of the sentimentality and other subtlety issues that do the final product serious damage as a drama, so it's not like I can praise this series' score too much, though I can't help but give high compliments to it on a straightforward musical level, as Michael Kamen, Mark Mancina, Mark Isham, Mason Daring, James Newton Howard, Brad Fiedel, Jeff Beal and Marc Shaiman all back their talent with an endearing inspiration that crafts beautiful composition after beautiful composition. The musical aspects of this series get to be a bit questionable in some areas, but on the whole, musical liveliness breathes a lot of colorful life into the final product's entertainment value and sometimes even compliments the effectiveness of the more genuine atmospheric beats every bit as much as it supplements the manipulative areas in storytelling, and certain sharp moments in Gale Tattersall's cinematography are also worth noting, so on an artistic level, this series offers quite a bit to punch up depths, which are, of course, further flavored up by such more conceptually instrumental storytelling compliments as inspired acting. Focusing on most every key player in most every key chapter in the story of NASA's Apollo program, as well as on many of the peers surrounding these important historical figures, this ensemble piece is, as you can imagine, filled to the brim with characters whose being sold as engaging can do a lot for this drama, and who are indeed sold as engaging by an immense, moderately star-studded (So to speak) cast, most every one of whose members deliver on charisma, bonded through effective, sometimes perhaps even delightful chemistry, if not broken up by a subtle dramatic note that gives you a glimpse into the deeper depths of this fairly human drama and therefore adds to what effectiveness there is to the more relatively compelling moments. The performances aren't necessarily anything to write home about, because this isn't that type of drama that's dripping with acting potential, the acting does seem genuinely heartfelt, enough so to help in carrying this series, which is impressive, considering how weighed down this project is by its many shortcomings. The series' flaws - of which there are very much many - make the burden of powering this messy effort on as decent a somewhat heavy one, and yet, the final product wouldn't be saved as surely as it ultimately is if its weight wasn't lightened up by the value of the subject matter, alone, because even though this series' story concept is rich with natural shortcomings, if not downright barely, if at all consequential areas, and is all too often deeply betrayed by the consequential shortcomings that slowly, but surely, dilute the sense of majesty that this teller of an important tale cannot afford to have slip too much (Oh, so you're the... seventh person to walk on the Moon, that's... great, I guess), its intrigue never slips so much that you can't see some fair degree of just how significant and even interesting this subject matter is. This study on the building of and more human aspects surrounding the legendary story of the Apollo space programs is a worthy and fascinating one that keeps things going even on paper, yet at the end of the day, in order for this effort to keep you going, there must be inspiration in the execution of the worthy story concept, and sure enough, as questionable as each directorial performance throughout this series gets to be, there are more than a few highlights that cut through the muck with reasonably effective dramatic moments enough to give you glimpses at potential and reinforce your investment, which would be beyond saving were it not for a certain consistent aspect that keeps the final product alive. The series is a serious mess, and for whatever reason, the overrating critics don't really talk about all of the unevenness, questionable stylistic choices, expository issues, bloating and gradual dilution in consequentiality that was limited to begin with, which are mere highlights in a hefty collection of flaws that were never going to be enough to drive the final product into contempt, but could have definitely driven the saga away from decency and into the dreaded dark depths of mediocrity, so if nothing else saves this series, it is but one simple aspect that actually goes a long way in the end: entertainment value, because as sloppy as this series is, it's hard to fully fall out of this overblown watch, as it is lively and endearing enough to consistently sustain entertainment value, and with it, enough of your investment for you to meditate upon the strengths that ultimately triumph in carrying the final product out of the dark depths of mediocrity and into bona fide enjoyment, even if there is a whole lot to be desired in the long run.
In the end, questionable and sometimes inconsistent, documentary-esque storytelling stylistic choices, expository shortcomings, exhaustingly aimless bloating, a bit too much of a sense of episodicity, and subtlety issues, alongside overambition and natural shortcomings, squander potential so intensely that the final product comes close to collapsing into mediocrity, yet doesn't, as there is enough liveliness to the music, heart to the acting and chemistry, and intrigue to the subject matter - brought to life by highlights within the directorial performances that at least keep consistent in establishing a certain entertaining atmospheric liveliness - for HBO's "From the Earth to the Moon" to stand as an enjoyable, if messy tribute to man's early adventures to places beyond our world that were once believed to be unreachable.
2.5/5 - Fair