A bat­tling, bril­liant un­der­dog

Cosmos - - Spectrum - — ANTHEA BATSAKIS

IT MAY BE TI­TLED GE­NIUS, but Na­tional Ge­o­graphic’s bi­o­graph­i­cal se­ries on Al­bert Ein­stein does not ren­der him a hero. His flaws are laid out from the very first mo­ment he ap­pears on screen – pants down and, ahem, smudg­ing the chalk on a black­board with his young lover.

That’s not to say that the show makes Ein­stein – played with enor­mous grace by Aus­tralia’s Ge­of­frey Rush – to­tally un­like­able.

As the se­ries flicks from his ac­com­plished celebrity dur­ing the rise of Nazism to his head­strong youth, he emerges as a sym­pa­thetic char­ac­ter, a bat­tling, bril­liant un­der­dog.

We learn that not all find his in­sa­tiable cu­rios­ity en­dear­ing. His end­less ques­tion­ing, un­de­terred am­bi­tion and doubts re­gard­ing long ac­cepted sci­ence make him a dif­fi­cult stu­dent and land him poor ref­er­ences for jobs in academia. In­stead, he works long days as a patent clerk, writ­ing sci­ence pa­pers in his spare time.

Per­haps most telling is the ex­po­si­tion­laden phrase thrown at Ein­stein from his sec­ond wife, Elsa (Emily Wat­son) in the first episode: “For a man who is an ex­pert on the uni­verse, you don’t know the first thing about peo­ple, do you?”

The se­ries, based on Wal­ter Isaac­son’s best-sell­ing 2007 book Ein­stein: His Life and Uni­verse, is visu­ally stun­ning, starkly emo­tive and doesn’t short-change view­ers in char­ac­ter depth, giv­ing a loud per­son­al­ity to that fa­mous face we so of­ten see in black-and-white pic­tures.

Ge­nius is fash­ioned by mul­ti­ple di­rec­tors, in­clud­ing Os­car-win­ner Ron Howard, and airs on the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Chan­nel.

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