Dark Historical Thriller On Max Shows How Government Neglect Caused Disaster

By Jennifer Muscato | Published

Next month, April 26 to be exact, marks 38 years since the Chernobyl disaster. It may be a good time to honor the victims and see their story in the Max miniseries Chernobyl, which depicts how government neglect caused the historic disaster.

The Very Real Disaster

Chernobyl revolves around the disaster and the cleanup efforts that followed. In April 1986, a sudden surge of power during a test destroyed Unit 4 of the nuclear power station at Chernobyl, Ukraine. That event and the fire that followed released massive amounts of radioactive material into the environment. Two workers died within hours of the reactor explosion, and radiation effects killed 28 of the site’s workers in the first four months. 106 workers received high radiation doses, causing acute radiation sickness. In addition, 200,000 cleanup workers received high doses of radiation.

The Soviet House Of Cards Came Tumbling Down

Blame for the Chernobyl disaster has been attributed to the operating personnel, the plant management, the design of the reactor, and the lack of adequate safety information in the Soviet nuclear industry.

Actor Jared Harris, who audiences know well from Mad Men, plays real-life chemist Valery Legasov in Chernobyl. During a testimony, Legasov pointed the finger at the Soviet government’s suppression of information relating to one of the causes of the disaster.

A Fantastic Cast

Stellan Skarsgård also stars in Chernobyl, which premiered in 2019. Recently, he reflected on the success of the miniseries to Vanity Fair, saying that HBO did not think it was going to be a success, but they thought it was important to do the project anyway. “That was HBO back then. In those days, it was…It’s different now.” This brings up the question of whether the network would even take on a project like Chernobyl in 2024.

A Runaway Success For HBO

In early 2017, producer Carolyn Strauss joined the project in the works and pitched Chernobyl with writer Craig Mazin to HBO’s Kary Antholis. According to The New York Times, Antholis said, “It was the best pitch I’ve heard in 25 years of listening to pitches.” By the way, Strauss is responsible for commissioning series like The Sopranos, The Wire, Six Feet Under, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Sex and the City.

A Record Amount Of Emmy Wins

Industry reports state that HBO was responsible for $15 million of the total $40 million dollar budget. Ratings and critical reception were both good. Chernobyl has a 9.3/10 on IMDB and it has a 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Also, it won 10 Emmys, including Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special, and Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special. Skarsgård went on to win a Golden Globe for his portrayal of real-life Ukrainian Soviet politician Boris Shcherbina.

Chernobyl was filmed primarily in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Kyiv, Ukraine. Kyiv is known for being a city with centuries-old architecture.

All five episodes of the hit miniseries Chernobyl are streaming now on Max.