Johnny Flynn and Geoffrey Rush as Albert Einstein. Johnny Flynn and Geoffrey Rush as Albert Einstein. Johnny Flynn and Geoffrey Rush as Albert Einstein. (Photo: National Geographic / Dusan Martincek)

Despite Emmy snubs, 'Genius' show about Einstein garnered praise and broke records

The series was watched by 45 million people around the world, and brought to light the life story of the beloved genius.

Einstein won the Nobel Prize in 1921. In 1999, he was named the "Person of the Century" by Time Magazine. And on the final Sunday of the summer of 2017, the story of his life almost took home multiple Emmy Awards.

Alas, it did not. But at the end of the night, fans of the National Geographic "Genius" series, produced by Academy Award winners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer about the life of Albert Einstein, had their heads held high. Even without the awards, the show had broken many records, received critical acclaim and has already spawned a sequel. We take a look back at some of the highlights...

The show received 10 Emmy nominations

The series entered the zeitgeist fast and furiously, garnering great reviews and – like water cooler show "Game of Thrones" – became the subject of weekly episode recaps. The show received the Emmy nods mere weeks after it wrapped up its 10-episode run in June while its memory was still fresh in voters' minds. The nominations encompassed both big awards (best limited series, beast lead actor) as well as some less glitzy ones (outstanding special visual effects in a supporting role and a nod to Einstein's iconic mustache for best hairstyling).

Albert Einstein, left, and the actor that plays him, Geoffrey Rush, right.Albert Einstein, left, and the actor who plays him, Geoffrey Rush, right. That picture-perfect mustache caught the attention of Emmy voters. (Photo: General Photographic Agency/Getty Images and National Geographic/Dusan Martincek)


It broke records

Johnny Flynn stars as young Albert Einstein in National Geographic’s 'Genius.'Johnny Flynn starred as a young Albert Einstein in 'Genius.' (Photo: Robert Viglasky/National Geographic)

The 10 Emmy nominations marked a record for National Geographic. It also became the channel's best performing new series launch in network history, watched by over 45 million viewers globally. The fact that the show broke through is impressive considering there is more television than ever – with more than 450 scripted shows broadcast this year.

“The writing staff wanted to stay as true to the story as possible," said co-executive producer Noah Pink, who wrote a couple of the episodes. "Not only because we were doing it for National Geographic but we felt the story was so powerful and intriguing that we saw no need to stray too far from the truth."

The series rode a renewed wave of pop culture depictions of the beloved genius. "The interest in Einstein does not fade into history," Hanoch Gutfreund, the director of the Albert Einstein Archives at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, told From The Grapevine. "If one can say anything about this, the interest in Einstein increases with time. It's greater now."


It brought Geoffrey Rush to TV

Actor Geoffrey Rush at one of several Emmy parties he attended over the weekend.Actor Geoffrey Rush at one of several Emmy parties he attended over the weekend. (Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images)

The 66-year-old Rush has already won the Triple Crown of Acting: the Academy Award, the Primetime Emmy Award and the Tony Award for previous roles. (All he would need is a Grammy to be one of the rare entertainers with all four, collectively referred to as the EGOT.) And Rush was in good company last night, as just one of many Australians up for awards – including Judy Davis for her role in "Feud" and to Kate Dennis for directing an episode of "The Handmaid's Tale," a series that won multiple awards last night. Fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman took home the award for Best Actress in a Limited Series for her role in "Big Little Lies."

“I wanted to think outside of him being a scientist because that's a given," Rush said about his approach to portraying Einstein. "He’s a great heroic figure. He was a glass half full kind of guy. He always saw the better side of humanity."


It came from genius producers

Ron Howard and Brian Grazer – the Academy Award-winning duo behind the likes of "Apollo 13" and "A Beautiful Mind" – brought their focus to the small screen for this biographical series. “One of the big surprises for me about Einstein was … that he wasn’t this big introvert, he was more like a novelist or a painter. It’s amazing how close society came to not benefiting from Albert Einstein’s genius,” Howard said.

“There was a lot of pressure on Einstein," he continued. "Sometimes it was his own foibles. But, very often, it was society’s old, rigid thinking, and sometimes bigotry that threatened to prevent the world from having what this remarkable individual had to offer. So it's not just a story of achievement, it's also a story of struggle.”

Grazer attended last night's ceremony on behalf of the show and bumped into fellow nominee Ryan Murphy. Murphy's series "Feud" about the rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford was up against "Genius" in the Limited Series category.

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It's already spawned a sequel

Antonio Banderas (right) will portray the 20th century icon Pablo Picasso (left).Antonio Banderas (right) will portray the 20th century icon Pablo Picasso (left). (Photo: Wikimedia)

National Geographic announced a second season of "Genius" about the life of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. It will star Antonio Banderas, himself a Spaniard. “The life story of Pablo Picasso has long since fascinated me and I have so much respect for this man, who also comes from my birthplace Málaga,” Banderas said.

The band is getting back together, as Howard and Grazer will return as executive producers. “Antonio was the natural choice," Howard said. "He, like Picasso, has a no-holds-barred approach to life that will add to the genuineness that we’re looking for. He has such tremendous range as an actor, who I know will bring this brilliant and unconventional artist to life.”

The second season of "Genius" is expected to air in 2018.

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