Say what you will about Sean Penn — but the guy has charisma.

That’s readily apparent in “The First,” Penn’s first starring role in a small-screen series. Created by and written by Beau Willimon (“House of Cards”), who produces with Jordan Tappis, the eight-episode drama (dropping all at once Friday on Hulu) recounts the story behind the (near-future’s) first manned mission to Mars.

Willimon takes his time establishing the series premise, but that’s not a knock, it’s an asset. With its lush cinematography, an apropos musical score and solid acting all around, “The First” embarks on a journey that will keep viewers interested as the intergalactic mission unfolds and several layers are added to the main characters.

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