Apple TV+ and other TV matters

My daughter bought herself a new iPad Pro and thus scored a free year of Apple TV+, meaning we can now watch such shows as The Morning Show, For All Mankind, and Amazing Stories. You can of course choose to pay a subscription to Apple TV+: it’s a reasonable £4.99 per month after a 7-day free trial. Apple also remove friction by making a number of first episodes available to watch for free, even without signing up. So you could easily sit down and watch an hour of various things to see if you’re grabbed.

But I had done none of those things until my kid got her iPad, which raises the question, why not?

I think in this era of peak TV that I just didn’t feel the need to seek out any of these Apple shows. There was plenty(ish) to watch on my existing on-again, off-again subscriptions, and I didn’t need to add more. I’d tested my tolerance for bingeing by signing, briefly, up to Britbox, and realising that, after all, I wasn’t up for sitting through the entirety of old Doctor Who. Once you come to that realisation, you look beetle-browed at everything else on offer. Netflix isn’t really worth paying for at the moment. None of their recent shows have grabbed me, and (as I’ve said before) their films are boring. Amazon don’t release anything like as much new stuff as Netflix and still their quality is patchy. I think there are too many of these dark, heavy-hitting shows, like Hunters, with Big Stars (Al Pacino), and it’s just too much. The times we’re living in!

Although I’m probably bang-smack in the middle of the demographic that shows like Hunters, The Witcher, Altered Carbon and so on are aimed at, I really can’t be arsed. I’m here to confess that I’m a 57 year old man who does not like The Godfather, or Heat, or, I dunno, Goodfellas. So when Netflix released The Irishman, I was totally indifferent. I’d really rather watch The Gilmore Girls or Friday Night Lights. So I’m never going to bother with Hunters, so hoo-hah. And, honestly, one of my favourite things to watch at the moment is The Rookie, which stars Nathan Fillion, who is like the anti-Al Pacino or something. In fact, Friday nights, with Picard and The Rookie have been great for a couple of months.

As to TV+, everything looked like it could wait, or that it was trying a bit too hard, and the press they were getting as these shows were in production did them no favours at all. They lost control of the narrative, and it was being put about that Apple were telling producers not to be “mean” and to keep everything Disney-like and family-friendly. Completely untrue stories (if only there were a term of art for that kind of thing that wasn’t tainted) that somehow got into circulation.

But now I’ve seen a few of these shows, so here’s my cold take.

The Morning Show

A TV show about a TV show, hmm. Well, I was one of those rare people who liked The Newsroom, and Studio 60, so of all Apple’s shows this was the most likely to appeal. I’ve watched around 3 episodes by now. I completely buy Jennifer Aniston as the under-pressure host of a Morning TV show whose co-presenter (Steve Carrel) is caught up in a sexual harassment scandal. And I also buy the idea that a fresh, new, talent, an outsider, would be brought in to replace. But, unfortunately, the third wheel here is Reese Witherspoon. She’s great, but she’s either playing the Aniston character, or the casting doesn’t work. So I’m not engaged, and furthermore, I don’t think people should watch TV in the morning. Just turn it off. Problems solved. So, um, three stars or something.

For All Mankind

If there was another show that was likely to appeal, it was this, an alternate history in which the Russians get to the Moon first, and throw the American space programme into crisis. I like a bit of alternate history, although I prefer my spacecraft to be huge and sleek rather than cramped and realistic. The difference is between the people walking (upright!) in the luxurious and roomy space hotel in 2001: A Space Odyssey and the crouching, sweating crew of Apollo 13. I’m always slightly disappointed in the reality of space exploration, and even the “small” ship in Picard has cabins and holograms. So here we are, in a realistic NASA with realistic sexism and racism and realistic dishonest politicians. It’s okay. I’ve watched two episodes; I’m not hooked. When I say I’ll persevere, that word is chosen with care. It’s more of a weary, oh, go on then than an enthusiastic cheer.

Amazing Stories

More science fiction, this from the Spielbergian school. It’s an anthology show, so automatically has hit-and-miss built into it. First episode about a time portal is quite engaging, and could have been the basis for a whole series. Second episode about, um, ghosts, lost my attention just before the end. Third episode is superhero nonsense (gave up 20 minutes in). Haven’t gone any farther yet. Again, it’s okay, but it’s not must-see TV.

Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet

This one is a half-hour comedy set in a computer game development company. The game creator Ian Grimm is uncannily like Twitters @Jack, you know who I mean. Anyway, it’s all right. But if you want to know how funny it was, I just had to check to see how long the episode I watched was. Twenty-eight minutes, sure enough, but I thought it might have been an hour.

There is more. Some of which I will never look at. There are children’s shows (Snoopy in Space) and chat shows (Oprah something something) and documentaries (?), which almost never interest me. There’s a drama called Truth Be Told with Octavia Spencer and Aaron Paul I might look at later. And there’s See, which was supposed to be Apple’s High Concept Headline Grabbing MUST SEE Game of Thrones TENTPOLE type show, starring Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard. And then the trailer made it look stupid. And, um, everyone who saw it said it was kind of stupid, and which just makes me feel tired, honestly. Just thinking about it. Ugh.

There really is quite a lot more stuff, including upcoming shows that look even British. There’s one that looks like it could be a BBC/ITV drama about adopting a kid. There’s probably enough depth for you to try a 7-days-free look-see. Or a year, if you buy an Apple device.

But don’t forget to cancel.

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