It’s all “Television Worth Watching” of course, but every now and then I feel the need to kick a show up into the “Television You Must Watch” category. Such is the case with Tuesday night’s (10/23) NOVA episode “Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives,” airing on NPT at 7:00 p.m.
The episode follows Mark Oliver Everett, better known as E, the lead singer of US cult band the EELS, in his quixotic quest to understand his father, Hugh Everett III, one of America’s top quantum physicists and creator of one of its most radical theories.
In 1957, Hugh Everett came up with a revolutionary theory that predicted the existence of parallel universes. The idea quickly seeped into popular culture, but only recently has it been accepted by mainstream physicists. The film follows the wry and charismatic Mark, who had been estranged from his father, as he travels across America to learn about the father he never knew. It is only by entering the paradoxical world of quantum mechanics that Mark can hope to understand why he was such a stranger to his own father.
The New York Times, in an interview with Mark and preview of the film, says it “paints a striking portrait of an inordinately gifted man so devastated by the scientists’ dismissal and scorn of his work, and his subsequent reputation as a crackpot, that he withdrew almost entirely into his own mind.”
“Despite what might seem to be an uneasy melding of physics and familial dysfunction, ‘Parallel Worlds’ is neither eye-glazing nor overwrought,” writes Shawna Malcolm in The Times. “Filmed with an intimate looseness, the documentary unfolds as an unconventional, though ultimately transcendent, two-week road triptranscendent, two-week road trip…”
The folks at Very Short List, in making the film one of its picks last week, write that the documentary, originally broadcast on the BBC, “is a tearjerker that doubles as an excellent primer on quantum theory. The science is fascinating. The structure is simple … but the story itself becomes more complex, and more compelling, as we learn more about the Everett clan.”
Learn more about the documentary, Mark Oliver Everett, his father Hugh Everett II and Quantum Physics, at the excellent NOVA companion site.