The new Apple TV+ services launches today with a slate of original programming that includes something for everyone, from your basic workplace dramas to jazzed-up period pieces, alternate histories, comedies, and horror sereies. After watching the first episode of some of the shows with the most buzz, it’s clear that Apple is coming out of the gate with a solid lineup aimed at rivaling the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO, and the other dominant players in the streaming game.
Here are our first impressions of some of the most talked-about and anticipated series.
The Morning Show
The series getting the most buzz prior to launch, mainly due to a star-studded cast that includes Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell, is The Morning Show. It’s about a popular morning news/talk show that’s sent into a tailspin when the male co-host (Carrell) is fired due to sexual misconduct. His 15-year on-air partner (Aniston) is left to pick up the pieces while fighting to stay relevant during a time when the media is changing and newcomers like a sassy, young local news reporter (Witherspoon) are willing to do things differently.
It’s a timely and familiar story (perhaps too familiar), but, at the outset at least, it shows an angle not often addressed: That of the co-star who’s left to recalibrate her life in the wake of the drama, not the accused or the victims. Aniston does a wonderful job portraying the multilayered woman suffering through conflicting feelings while in the midst of career turmoil. While we expect award-caliber performances from Carrell and Witherspoon, this may finally be the role that earns Aniston the respect she deserves.
The series has potential, particularly as we anticipate how interference from the charmingly arrogant network head, who’s eager to make serious changes, will impact both women and their careers. The show is predictable, though comfortingly so. It leaves you wanting more, and it might surprise viewers who feel the premise wouldn’t be their cup of tea.
If you’re missing Game of Thrones, this series might fill the void. Though it takes place in the far-ahead future instead of the long-ago past, it has the primal elements fans of Thrones loved. In addition to Jason Momoa playing a character similar to his dour Dothraki Khal Drogo — right down to taking a bride, trying to have a child, and being a skilled fighter and leader — the series also has intense and gory fight scenes that will make you cringe. The twist is that a virus long ago wiped out humans’ ability to see, and those with sight are considered to be evil. The Game of Thrones comparisons continue with an evil Cersei-like queen, though she seems more interested in helping herself than hooking up with her brother.
Kudos goes to the team behind this show, as well as the actors, for accurately addressing the challenges that come with portraying an entire cast of characters who have lost their eyesight. In one terrifying scene, for example, two people fall from a bridge simply because they can’t get the proper footing. In another, the queen snaps her fingers to summon her servant, which initially seems condescending until you realize she’s doing this so the man can locate her in the large, open room.
A battle brews as the enemy tries to capture twin babies born with the presumed “curse” of sight. Momoa plays his stereotypical character well, but the scene -stealer is Paris (Alfre Woodard), a wise and mysterious woman with a keen understanding of the past and a psychic sense for the future (think Bran Stark).
If Anne of Green Gables or Little House on the Prairie were to blend with Gilmore Girls, this show is what it might look like. A rebellious young Emily Dickinson, played by Hailee Steinfeld, tries to reconcile her obsession with death and passion for writing poetry with her stifled life as a young woman living in the 1800s.
The series is, to put it simply, weird. It blends the old with the new but seems stuck between being a modern-day interpretation of Dickinson’s life and a period piece. Breaking genre conventions, we see Dickinson in a traditional dress hauling pails of water to the house in the morning, then penning poetry at night and declaring “nailed it” when she’s happy with the completed verse. The hip-hop and modern musical accompaniment, along with rapper Wiz Khalifa as Dickinson’s vision of death, add to the confusion.
As a coming-of-age story, it’s a fun interpretation that aims to get a new generation of viewers interested in history and the art of poetry. It has more comedic elements than you might expect, but it won’t be for everyone.
For All Mankind
Boasting absolutely stunning visuals, For All Mankind combines fierce American patriotism with a twisted alternate history where the global space race never ended and the USSR beat the U.S. to the moon. As Americans and NASA employees grapple with the embarrassment and feelings of failure, top astronaut Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) tries to reconcile his own insecurities and anger about missed opportunities with NASA’s unwillingness to take risks.
It’s a look at a very different America, full of regret and lost confidence in the space agency. A particularly deep jab comes when aerospace engineer and space architect Wernher von Braun (Colm Feore) discusses how Apollo 11 will be able to make a much better phone call from space than the Russians could. He’s abruptly told that the president “doesn’t usually call silver medalists.” Ouch.
As it progresses, the show becomes a deeply emotional alternate account of history. It’s no surprise the series has already been renewed for a second season.
Servant is a thoroughly disturbing psychological thriller that has Black Mirror and Twilight Zone vibes written all over it. In fact, it stars English actor Toby Kebbell, who fans might recognize from the Black Mirror episode “The Entire History Of You” one of the best episodes of the series to date. The show features sci-fi and horror elements common among those other series combined with what you’d expect from an M. Night Shyamalan project — which makes sense, since Shyamalan is an executive producer.
It begins as a young woman arrives to the home of a couple and their baby where she has been hired to work as a live-in nanny. The seriously creepy vibes are sure to leave mouths agape. As the story progresses, it will toy with your mind in a way only Shyamalan can.
Each episode will have you questioning reality and make you eager to watch the next. It’s bound to be a surprise hit, and with short, half-hour episodes, it will be an easy binge once it officially launched on November 28.
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