The Man in the High Castle is Amazon Studios most most eagerly awaited TV series ever—that’s not opinion, but empirical fact, as evidenced by the company’s uniquely public development process where pilots are viewed and rated online like detergent or books. The series is based on Philip K. Dick’s alternate history novel exploring what 1960s America might be like if the Axis Powers had won World War II. Since the episode was put online back in January, High Castle has generated more viewers and positive reviews than any other pilot in the company’s relatively short history.
Creator Frank Spotnitz told a small huddle of reporters after the show’s panel at the Television Critics Association’s press tour on Monday that although he has zero interest in taking an obvious political stance with the show, he does plan to pose morality questions about modern-day America.
“There are interesting questions about who we are today and what we’re doing that I want people to think about,” Spotnitz said. “The Nazis are ruthless, they will hunt out their enemies without remourse. Look at how ruthless we are about fighting our enemies. In [the TV series], the Nazis are in control and the terrorists are us. The terrorists are the oppressed Americans and the Jews. It makes you think.”
Continued Spotnitz: “Our politics right now are pretty dysunctional, pretty fractured, and a show like this is about who are, what do you stand for as a country. And no matter who you are politically, you can look at the show and say, ‘Well, I’m against the Nazis occupying our country.’ But then comes [the question]: ‘What am I for? What do I believe?’ There are some scenes in the show, where you’re like, ‘I almost agree with that, almost. But why don’t I agree with that?’ What makes us Americans and not Nazis?”
‘You can’t take for granted that we’re the good guys,” he added. “America is an idea and it’s up to each generation to live up to that idea. And it’s up to us to live up to that. I would love for people to be entertained by this show, but also think about those questions … What’s interesting to me is how people rationalize what they do. How people are able to justify terrible things.”
Having said all that, the showrunner emphisized: “I’m not doing this show to lecture people. I’m not doing the show to tell people what we should be doing as Americans.”
Spotnitz, who previously was a writer-producer on Fox’s The X-Files, says he read every one of the show’s 11,800 reader comments (including the ones in German, which he found contained remarkably smiliar comments to U.S. viewers), yet says he didn’t let pilot opinions impact the creative development of the rest of the seasons.
“Honestly, I’m used to reading [reader comments] because on The X-Files we grew up with the Interent, and I never responded to them because I know it’s a small percentage of the audience and it’s a mistake to write to them,” he said. “In this case, I was suprrised, I had no idea the show would be so well received. It was wonderfully vindicating and surprising.”
On a somewhat lighter note, Spotnitz revealed that TV programming in this alternate world is pretty humorous.
“There’s a show called American Reich which is like Dragnet, only they’re Nazi cops, it’s hilarious,” he said. Then he also noted this nightmare version of American would never have had a show like sitcom classic I Love Lucy. “There wouldn’t be I Love Lucy because of Desi Arnaz. That’s where it gets unfunny really fast.”
All 13 episodes of Man in the High Castle premieres on Amazon on Nov. 20.