Because we’ve been simply starved of new television content in recent years, Apple today launched its own streaming service, Apple TV+, with seven new shows and enough talent (Aniston! Momoa! Oprah!) to power your iPhone for a week straight.
The four new scripted series—The Morning Show, Dickinson, See, and For All Mankind—cover all the bases: timely #MeToo drama, sex-infused historical satire, fantasy-action Game of Thrones copycat, and a revisionist take on the Space Race. But are any of them actually worth your time—and the $4.99 a month price tag? We watched them all so you don’t have to.
The Morning Show
The premise: This one has all the marquee features: Jennifer Aniston’s long-awaited return to television, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell in meaty co-starring roles, and one of the most urgent issues of the day. Aniston plays Alex Levy, a national morning news anchor stunned by allegations that her co-host of 15 years, Mitch Kessler (Carell), engaged in sexual misconduct at work. As the show-within-the-show grapples with the the fallout of Mitch’s dismissal, Alex fights to save her job and reputation. Meanwhile, conservative Midwestern reporter Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) unexpectedly replaces Kessler after her own viral stint. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bel Powley, Billy Crudup, and Mark Duplass round out the cast.
The verdict: Powerhouse actors can’t save a sinking script. Everything about The Morning Show rings false: the characters are underdeveloped, the drama borders on soap opera theatrics, and the conversations sound like a Time’s Up press release run through the Aaron Sorkin monologue generator. Even the sets are artificial and lifeless—Alex’s multi-million-dollar New York apartment is lit worse than a New York City subway platform. Aniston does her best with the material and is the most compelling character as a result, but conversations between other characters have as much frantic energy as acting class on Barry. The show is best when Aniston and Witherspoon play off each other, and their dynamic alone is worth the watch. If you temper your expectations from the start, you might just enjoy yourself.
The premise: America’s most famous poet gets a rapturous injection of opium in this half-hour comedy, which blends Emily Dickinson’s most famous works with contemporary dialogue, a tender love story, and welcome nightly visits from Death himself (Wiz Khalifa).
The verdict: The unexpected standout of Apple’s four scripted offerings, Dickinson has more heart than most shows on TV right now. If you can look past the anachronisms and occasionally jarring dialogue, you’ll find that the poignant romance between Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) and Sue (Ella Hunt) powers the show through its questionable conceit. Literary purists should stick to re-watching A Quiet Passion, but for those seeking a refreshing challenge, Dickinson is worth the time.
The premise: A catastrophic disease kills most of humanity and renders all survivors blind. Some time in the future, hostile tribes battle for dominance in a society where discussing the concept of sight is blasphemous. When twins who can see are born to a tribe leader (Jason Momoa), he must protect his family from a mysterious religious leader (Sylvia Hoeks). Alfre Woodard also stars.
The verdict: If you can’t get enough of protracted battle scenes showcasing Momoa wielding primitive weaponry, See caters to your extremely niche interests. For the rest of us, this series is a muddled, nearly unintelligible snooze that can’t keep up with its own convoluted exposition.
For All Mankind
The premise: It’s June of 1969 and Russia just beat the United States to the moon. In the fallout, a group of NASA engineers rush to save the agency from irreparable damage.
The verdict: This alternate history would be worth exploring if the show had anything to say beyond what movies like Hidden Figures, First Man, and Ad Astra already tackled. We’ve seen the “tortured white man strives for the stars” story half a dozen times in the last five years, and For All Mankind fails to add anything to the conversation.
In addition to three children’s shows, Apple TV+ launches today with a 96-minute documentary, The Elephant Queen, and the first episode of Oprah’s Book Club, a conversation with The Water Dancer author Ta-Nehisi Coates.
November will see the release of Sundance favorite Hala and a new series from M. Night Shyamalan, Servant. On December 6, Octavia Spencer’s new series Truth Be Told, about a podcaster (Spencer) who fears she put an innocent man (Aaron Paul) in jail, premieres.