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See the first trailer for Lincoln assassination thriller Manhunt

See the first trailer for Lincoln assassination thriller Manhunt
Anthony Boyle in Episode 1 of "Manhunt." Credit: Apple+

A while ago, Sarah and I were talking about period-set true crime books that could do with a dramatic adaptation, and I had a post-conversation l’esprit de l’escalier moment. “Why didn’t I say Manhunt!?!” I thought. I would have sounded so smart!

In 2007, “Manhunt” might have been an OK title for a book that details, hour-by-hour, the hunt for Abraham Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth.

It’s pretty good, and is available at Exhibit B for only $4, but that’s not why I’m writing about it — instead, it’s because Apple+ unveiled the first trailer for its dramatic adaptation of James L. Swanson’s book, an adaptation that bears the book’s name.

Does Manhunt still work as a title post video-game controversy, Discovery’s Unabomber/Atlanta Olympics series, and a BAFTA-winning British detective fiction show?

I wondered about that when the series was announced last December, and continue to wonder after watching the trailer, which the hardware/streaming company dropped at a Television Critics Association event today.

The seven-part series stars Outlander baddie Tobias Menzies as U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who ran the hunt for Booth. Based on the trailer, it appears Manhunt’s Stanton will lack the real Stanton’s impressive beard; also based on the trailer, it appears that Booth (Anthony Boyle) will take — if you can forgive the expression — center stage in the tale.

I’m loath to make too many assertions about the series based on the trailer alone, but am already wondering if the world needs a seven-parter centered around a handsome and charismatic racist assassin right now. That Monica Beletsky (Emmy nominated for Fargo) and Carl Franklin (One False Move, Devil in a Blue Dress) are the show’s executive producers adds fuel to that fire: both built careers with great and compelling fictional villains, while, in many cases, the fictional survivors and victims faded into the background. Will that tone change when their attentions turn to history?

We’ll know more on Friday, March 15, when Manhunt’s first episode is available to stream; it’ll run weekly through April 19. In the meantime, maybe snag Swanson’s book from Sarah or elsewhere, so we can reconvene then to talk about what went right and what went wrong.

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