Science Channel/BBC/Patrick Toselli
Science Channel/BBC/Patrick Toselli

Tonight: The Challenger Disaster on Science and Discovery Channels

Science Channel/BBC/Patrick Toselli
Science Channel/BBC/Patrick Toselli

Space fans, set your DVRs! The Challenger Disaster premieres tonight—Saturday, November 16 from 9-11pm ET/PT. It's airing on both Science Channel and Discovery Channel at the same time.

When I heard there would be a movie about the Challenger disaster, I was intrigued—I assumed it would be another documentary, explaining O-rings, launch temperatures, management issues, and so on. (I have been mildly Challenger-obsessed since the day it blew up, and more so after studying the disaster in college.) But when I heard the movie was a drama starring William Hurt as Richard Feynman?! I was hooked.

The Challenger Disaster is Science Channel's first drama. It covers the investigation into the catastrophic loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, when all seven crew members died shortly after Challenger lifted off. I remember watching on TV as the craft burst apart, leaving twisting trails of smoke. After the disaster, President Reagan created the Rogers Commission to determine why Challenger failed.

Chairman Rogers (BRIAN DENNEHY). Photo courtesy of Discovery Channel/BBC.

The Rogers Commission and its report were a huge deal, partly because of tensions within the commission itself. Chairman Rogers and physicist Richard Feynman butted heads, and Feynman ended up writing his own appendix to the report, in which he detailed problems with the management culture at NASA. Feynman opened with this little zinger (emphasis added):

It appears that there are enormous differences of opinion as to the probability of a failure with loss of vehicle and of human life. The estimates range from roughly 1 in 100 to 1 in 100,000. The higher figures come from the working engineers, and the very low figures from management. What are the causes and consequences of this lack of agreement? Since 1 part in 100,000 would imply that one could put a Shuttle up each day for 300 years expecting to lose only one, we could properly ask "What is the cause of management's fantastic faith in the machinery?"

Feynman also wrote about the experience in his book, What Do You Care What Other People Think? In The Challenger Disaster, we see a dramatization of that work—a reasonably faithful record of what happened, but employing dramatic license to add tension here and there. The movie is interesting both for newcomers and people who are familiar with the story, though the latter might find Hurt's portrayal of Feynman a little more sober than what we might expect.

(L-R) General Kutyna (BRUCE GREENWOOD), Chairman Rogers (BRIAN DENNEHY), Sally Ride (EVE BEST). Photo courtesy of Science Channel/BBC/Patrick Toselli.

The Challenger Disaster deals with a grim, technical topic without getting mired in the grimness nor the technical bits—but it does give us enough of each to understand what's happening. The most interesting parts of the story are when we come to understand the politics of the situation. In those moments, we see the tension between Feynman's scientific instincts and the political maelstrom that surrounds him. The man had guts. The weakest moments are the repeated (and frankly ham-fisted) nods to Feynman's cancer. It's hard to go ten minutes in this movie without another reference to Feynman's mortality and his refusal to accept it; while this is probably largely true, it plays on the screen as hero worship. But all in all, this is a terrific movie, particularly for a TV movie. Tune in tonight.

A companion documentary (that I have not yet seen) airs on Monday, November 18 at 10pm ET/PT on Science Channel. Entitled Feynman: The Challenger, it covers Feynman's life and work, including his involvement with The Manhattan Project. I'll be tuning in for that one too.

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David Lynch's Amazon T-Shirt Shop is as Surreal as His Movies
Dominique Faget, AFP/Getty Images
Dominique Faget, AFP/Getty Images

David Lynch, the celebrated director behind baffling-but-brilliant films like Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and Twin Peaks, is now selling his equally surreal T-shirts on Amazon.

As IndieWire reports, each shirt bears an image of one of Lynch’s paintings or photographs with an accompanying title. Some of his designs are more straightforward (the shirts labeled “House” and “Whale” feature, respectively, drawings of a house and a whale), while others are obscure (the shirt called “Chicken Head Tears” features a disturbing sculpture of a semi-human face).

This isn’t the first time Lynch has ventured into pursuits outside of filmmaking. Previously, he has sold coffee, designed furniture, produced music, hosted daily weather reports, and published a book about his experience with transcendental meditation. Art, in fact, falls a little closer to Lynch’s roots; the filmmaker trained for years at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before making his mark in Hollywood.

Lynch’s Amazon store currently sells 57 T-shirts, ranging in size from small to triple XL, all for $26 each. As for our own feelings on the collection, we think they’re best reflected by this T-shirt named “Honestly, I’m Sort of Confused.”

Check out some of our favorites below:

T-shirt that says "Honestly, I'm Sort of Confused"
"Honestly, I'm Sort of Confused"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with a drawing of a sleeping bird on it
"Sleeping Bird"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt that says Peace on Earth over and over again. The caption is pretty on the nose.
"Peace on Earth"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an image of a screaming face made out of turkey with ants in its mouth
"Turkey Cheese Head"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an odd sculpted clay face asking if you know who it is. You get the idea.
"I Was Wondering If You Know Who I Am?"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an image of a sculpted head that is not a chicken. It is blue, though.
"Chicken Head Blue"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with a drawing of a lobster on it. Below the drawing, the lobster is labeled with the word lobster. Shocking, I know.
"Lobster"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an abstract drawing of what is by David Lynch's account, at least, a cowboy
"Cowboy"

Buy it on Amazon

[h/t IndieWire]

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S-Town Podcast Is Being Turned Into a Movie

S-Town, a seven-part podcast from Serial and This American Life, has all the trappings of a binge-worthy story. It all started when a man from the tiny town of Woodstock, Alabama asked a reporter to investigate a local man from a wealthy family who allegedly boasted he had gotten away with murder.

As for what happens next, “someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man's life,” reads the 2017 podcast’s synopsis, without giving too much away.

Now, that riveting story is being turned into a movie with This American Life’s participation, IndieWire reports. Participant Media acquired the rights to the S-Town podcast, and negotiations are underway to get playwright Samuel Hunter and director Tom McCarthy on board. McCarthy is perhaps best known for directing and co-writing 2015's Oscar-winning Spotlight; he also co-wrote Up and was an executive producer and director for the controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.

S-Town was downloaded over 10 million times over a period of four days after its release, and it received a Peabody Award for the radio/podcast category, according to IndieWire. Just last month, HBO and Sky announced they would be releasing a documentary series about Adnan Syed, the focus of the first season of the Serial podcast, which is developed by This American Life.

In case you missed S-Town when it premiered, you can go back and listen to it here.

[h/t IndieWire]

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