Se­ries dra­ma­tizes cat-mouse hunt for Un­abomber

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST / TELEVISION - MICHAEL STOREY The TV Col­umn ap­pears Sun­day, Tues­day and Thurs­day. Email: mstorey@arkansason­line.com

Show of hands. How many re­mem­ber the Un­abomber?

Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel will re­mind us of the in­fa­mous do­mes­tic ter­ror­ist at 8 p.m. to­day when the an­thol­ogy se­ries Man­hunt: Un­abomber ar­rives with a two-hour pre­miere.

It’s an eight-episode true tale of the FBI’s hunt for the dead­li­est se­rial bomber in his­tory.

The Un­abomber’s name is Ted Kaczyn­ski. He’s 75 years old now and a res­i­dent of the fed­eral su­per­max prison in Fremont County, Colo. Be­hind bars, Kaczyn­ski is known as in­mate No. 04475–046, and he’s serv­ing eight con­sec­u­tive life sen­tences with­out the pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role.

Kaczyn­ski isn’t in prison be­cause he’s stupid. A child math prodigy, Kaczyn­ski was only 16 when he was ac­cepted into Har­vard Univer­sity, where he earned his bach­e­lor de­gree. He went on to ob­tain a mas­ter’s and doc­tor­ate from the Univer­sity of Michi­gan, then be­came an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley.

A cou­ple of years af­ter that, some­thing snapped.

Kaczyn­ski re­treated to a re­mote Mon­tana cabin in 1971, learned sur­vival skills and, as a protest against the per­ceived threats of in­dus­try and tech­nol­ogy, be­gan a 17-year do­mes­tic ter­ror cam­paign.

Kaczyn­ski’s first mail­bomb in 1978 only slightly in­jured a Univer­sity of Illi­nois at Chicago cam­pus po­lice­man. They would get worse. He even tried to bring down a jet­liner.

UNABOMB is an FBI acro­nym taken from “univer­sity and air­line bomber.” The task force even­tu­ally in­volved crim­i­nal pro­fil­ers, and one pro­filer is at the heart of Man­hunt: Un­abomber.

Kaczyn­ski even­tu­ally wrote a 35,000-word man­i­festo, which was pub­lished in 1995 by The New York Times and The Wash­ing­ton Post. The phras­ing and ar­gu­ments were so dis­tinc­tive that Kaczyn­ski’s younger brother, David (played by Mark Du­plass, To­geth­er­ness), rec­og­nized it and tipped off the FBI.

The FBI ob­tained a search war­rant for the Mon­tana cabin in 1996 and a moun­tain of in­crim­i­nat­ing ev­i­dence was un­cov­ered in­side. Kaczyn­ski even­tu­ally pleaded guilty and was locked up for life in 1998.

Over the years, Kaczyn­ski’s 16 ex­plo­sive de­vices killed three and in­jured 23 oth­ers. Be­fore it was over, the Un­abomber had been the sub­ject of the long­est and most ex­pen­sive FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion in his­tory.

If that sounds like the stuff of a cat-and-mouse TV se­ries, you’re right. I’m just sur­prised it took this long.

The Dis­cov­ery se­ries stars Avatar’s Sam Wor­thing­ton as FBI pro­filer Jim “Fitz” Fitzger­ald. Paul Bet­tany (Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War) plays Kaczyn­ski and in one scene brings to life that fa­mous po­lice sketch with the hoodie and avi­a­tor sunglasses.

Other fa­mil­iar names in the large en­sem­ble in­clude Chris Noth (The Good Wife) as the UNABOM task force chief; Os­car nom­i­nee Keisha Cas­tle-Hughes (Whale Rider) as Fitzger­ald’s part­ner; and Jane Lynch (Glee) as for­mer U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Janet Reno.

Wor­thing­ton plays a chal­leng­ing role with skill. The la­conic and in­tense Fitzger­ald not only has to match wits with Kaczyn­ski, he’s bat­tling to have his new-fan­gled foren­sic lin­guis­tics taken se­ri­ously by an FBI bu­reau­cracy that dis­misses him out of turn.

Bet­tany turns in a mem­o­rable per­for­mance as the psy­cho­log­i­cally tor­tured killer.

“Ted’s sense of per­se­cu­tion and his mo­ti­va­tions were in­cred­i­bly com­plex and twisted,” Bet­tany told En­ter­tain­ment Weekly, “and not nearly as ide­al­is­tic as he would like to imag­ine. But what I am con­vinced of is that he was bru­tal­ized as a rather sen­si­tive, bril­liant 16-year-old boy, and it sort of weaponized him.”

View­ers may know how it all turns out, but that doesn’t make the jour­ney less fas­ci­nat­ing.

■ The Sin­ner, 9 p.m. Wed­nes­day, USA. Here’s another lim­ited sum­mer se­ries to pass some time. The crime thriller fol­lows Cora Tan­netti (Jes­sica Biel, 7th Heaven), a seem­ingly nor­mal young mother in a small town in up­state New York who, in an in­ex­pli­ca­ble fit of rage, stabs some­one to death on a crowded beach. To her hor­ror, she has no idea why she did it.

The se­ries, based on Pe­tra Hammes­fahr’s 2008 book of the same name, is not about who com­mit­ted the mur­der, but why.

Bill Pull­man (In­de­pen­dence Day) plays De­tec­tive Harry Am­brose, an in­ves­ti­ga­tor who be­comes ob­sessed with dis­cov­er­ing Cora’s mo­tive.

A USA pub­li­cist putting his English de­gree to good use tells us, “To­gether they travel a har­row­ing jour­ney into the depths of her psy­che and the vi­o­lent se­crets hid­den in her past.”

There will be eight episodes be­fore we learn all the an­swers.

Man­hunt: Un­abomber.

Look­ing like the widely dis­sem­i­nated po­lice sketch of the hooded sus­pect, Paul Bet­tany stars as Ted Kaczyn­ski in Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel’s new se­ries

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