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Sigmund Judge

Apple TV+ in 2021, Part 2 - Sigmund’s Picks

Photos by Apple, Theo McInnes, Disney/Dan Doperalski

With so many projects noted by Jonathan in part 1 of our 2021 Apple TV+ preview, you’d be forgiven in thinking that I had been left slim pickings given the sheer breadth of potential within his list of upcoming original programming.

In reality, I had to slim down my list of brand new TV+ projects that I’m excited for in 2021, whilst also omitting second seasons of Ted Lasso, The Morning Show and upcoming features ‘Emancipation’ and ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ -  both now not expected to release until either end of 2022.

Here then, are my most anticipated Apple TV+ projects expected to make their debuts in 2021:

Cherry - From visionary directors Anthony and Joe Russo, and starring Marvel collaborator Tom Holland and feature debutant Ciara Bravo comes ‘Cherry’, the journey of a disenfranchised young man who meets the love of his life, only to risk losing her through a series of bad decisions and challenging life circumstances. Inspired by the best selling novel of the same name by Nico Walker, the Russo brothers ‘End Game’ follow up is expected to be in contention this awards season and will debut its full trailer later this week in the lead up to its limited theatrical run on Feb 26th before debuting on Apple TV+ March 12th.

Losing Earth - The dramatised adaptation of Nathaniel Rich’s award winning New York Times Magazine story was purchased by Apple in a competitive situation all the way back in 2018. The story which is set between 1979 and 1989 focuses on a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians who tried unsuccessfully to save the world from climate change before it was too late.

The Sky is Everywhere - Starring Grace Kaufman, Cherry Jones and Jason Segel and directed by Josephine Decker is the latest feature film from Apple’s partnership with A24 and my most anticipated TV+ feature of the year. Based on the novel by Jandy Nelson - who also adapted the script - The Sky is Everywhere follows Lennie, a teen who  struggles to deal with the sudden loss of her older sister, becomes romantically involved with her sisters former fiancé and a new boy in town who shares her love of music - which may explain this on-set footage shot by a local by-stander.

Mr. Corman - Whilst little is known about the half hour comedy-drama series written, directed and produced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I’m a big fan of JGL and welcome his return to the small screen since co-starring on the long-running NBC hit comedy ‘3rd Rock from the Sun’. The upcoming A24 produced show follows the days and nights of a public schoolteacher in the San Fernando Valley. Pre-production for the show began at the tale-end of 2019 with the show likely to debut in the first half of 2021.

Foundation - Based on the award-winning, highly influential science fiction novels by Isaac Asimov, Foundation chronicles a band of exiles on their journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization. Following the surprise of a debut trailer during last years WWDC keynote I began reading Isaac Asimov’s novels and found them to be a challenge. 'Foundation  is a plot driven story exploring empire building, politics, economics and social science. I’m very interested and excited to see how Executive Producers Robyn Asimov, David S.Goyer, Josh Friedman, Cameron Welsh, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross tackle the challenge of bringing Isaac Asimov’s story to a mainstream television audience.

Pachinko - Once again based on the bestselling book, the show chronicles the hopes and dreams of four generations of a Korean immigrant family. Beginning with a forbidden love and crescendoing into saga, the story takes place between Korea, Japan and America in a melting pot of war, peace, love, loss, triumph and reckoning. The series will be told in three languages: Korean, Japanese and English and stars Lee Min-Ho, Jin Ha, Anna Sawai, Minha Kim, Soji Arai, and Kaho Minami.

The Shrink Next Door - Likely the one and only Wondery podcast project to make it to Apple following the company’s recent acquisition by Amazon, ‘The Shrink Next Door’ tells the story of Isaac Herschkopf, a psychiatrist to the stars who abused his relationship with his patients to exploit them for personal gain. Starring 'Anchorman' co-stars Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd and Kathryn Hahn, this dark comedy really goes places and I cant wait to see the talent involved take it to a new level of crazy.

Prehistoric Planet - Produced by Jon Favreau and Planet Earth II’s Mike Gunton in conjunction with BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit, the documentary series uses incredible CGI to tell the story of the final days of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. Judging by the talent involved, this will be truly spectacular. The perfect candidate to debut Apple’s purported plans for augmented reality special features.

Last but not least, The Shining Girls - another adaptation coming to Apple TV+, this time courtesy of Elisabeth Moss and Appian Way. Set in depression era Chicago, a drifter finds a key to a house that opens on to other times which comes at a sinister cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women who burn with potential, stalking them and their lives across different eras until, in 1989, one of his victims, a reporter named Kirby Mazrachi (Moss), survives and starts hunting him back. A big fan of Elisabeth Moss, its a real treat to see such a talent coming to Apple TV+ screens in this upcoming metaphysical thriller which the multiple award winning actress will also executive produce alongside Silka Luisa, novel author Lauren Beukes, Alan Page Arriaga, Lindsey McManus, Jennifer Davisson and Leonardo DiCaprio.

I think you will agree that Apple TV+ is in for a very exciting 2021 which we have detailed over seventeen cumulative picks. Of course this is by no means a complete list of whats coming during the streaming services second year, with many more surprises to be introduced over the course of the next 12 months.

Now that you know whats on our radars, we’d love to know whats on yours? Let us know on Twitter.

Jonathan Reed

Apple TV+ in 2021, Part 1 - Jonathan’s Picks

Photos by Brian Bowen Smith, Michael Buckner/Deadline, Art Streiber

Apple TV+ is now in its second year of existence.

As I discussed previously, it’s starting to find it’s voice. Apple’s approach, as with other areas in the company, has been slow and steady with a focus on quality.

Lot’s of TV+ original content has been announced for year two. While there are no premiere dates for new shows and some haven’t even started filming, there’s already some that are standing out for me. Sigmund will be back tomorrow with his picks.

Here are the new shows I have my eye on:

The Afterparty - A murder mystery comedy from Phil Lord & Chris Miller, the two genius writer/directors responsible for Clone High, 21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie and getting fired from ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ for being too funny. As if this wasn't reason enough to tune in the cast is stacked with comedy talent. Deep breath: Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson, Zoë Chao, Ben Schwartz, Ike Barinholtz, Ilana Glazer, Dave Franco, Jamie Demetriou, and John Early. The concept is also intriguing. Per The AV Club: "Each episode (eight in total) will focus on a different character’s perspective of the same night, and the film genre and visual format will change to suit the character’s personality". Being a huge fan of the creators and many of the cast this is probably the show I'm most excited for.

Earthsound - A series showcasing the sounds of the natural world from Offspring Films, a company created by a lot of the team behind the BBC David Attenborough series. I’m really hoping that this will utilise the Spatial Audio abilities of AirPods Pro & Max. As I mentioned on Magic Rays of Light, the biggest disappointment of the new AirPods Max is that they can’t utilise Spatial Audio with an Apple TV, just iPhones and iPads.

Five Days at Memorial - This is an adaptation of Sheri Fink's book, telling the story of the first five days in a New Orleans hospital after Hurricane Katrina. The hospital lost power, and while they waited to be rescued, people had to make life or death decisions on patients, including the question of euthanasia. Fink is producing, and it will be written by John Ridley (12 Years a Slave, Guerilla) and Carlton Cuse (Bates Motel, Lost). This promises to be a powerful story.

Shantaram - This series follows a bank robber who escapes to Mumbai but gets stranded there and is forced to reinvent himself living in the slums. It’s been plagued by production shutdowns due to weather and departing writers. However, late last year, Steve Lightfoot was installed as head writer and things are back on track. I’m a big fan of his work on the near-perfect series Hannibal and flawed-but-engrossing series The Punisher, so along with the intriguing premise, this has my eye.

Severance - A workplace thriller about a company that offers a procedure that separates workplace memories from other memories. I always love a high-concept series, and this thriller seems very much like that. It also has a fantastic cast with Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette, John Turturro, Christopher Walken, and is directed by Ben Stiller.

Schmigadoon! - This musical comedy from the writers of Despicable me and produced by Lorne Michaels(SNL) starring Cecily Strong, Keegan-Michael Key, Alan Cumming, Fred Armisen, Kristin Chenoweth, Jane Krakowski. Having read the series description here, it sounds wonderfully nutty in the vein of other Lorne Michaels-produced comedies like 30 Rock, The Other Two, The Mapleworth Murders and Miracle Workers.

Slow Horses - When Apple talks about prestige content, this exemplifies what they mean. With an A-List cast including Gary Oldman, Kristen Scott Thomas, Jonathan Pryce, Olivia Cooke and Jack Lowden there’s no arguing with the talent. Though again, it’s the writer I’m most excited about. Graham Yost was responsible for Justified, one of the most underrated of the last 20 years. He also wrote on The Americans, Band of Brothers & The Pacific. He’s a great showrunner, and I'm excited to see what he does on this.

Finally, there’s Masters of the Air - This is the third in the series of war dramas from Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg (also produced by Graham Yost, see above) following on from Band of Brothers and The Pacific. Several episodes will be directed by Cary Fukunaga (True Detective, No Time To Die) who promises to bring some fantastic thrills to the screen. In case you need reminding he was responsible for this amazing one-shot.

There are many other big names like Brie Larson and Damien Chazelle coming too, but these are the ones I have my eye on in particular.

What are you looking forward to for year two of Apple TV+? Let us know on Twitter.

Jonathan Reed

Is Apple TV+ Starting to Find It’s Voice →

November 1st marks the first anniversary of Apple TV+, the video streaming service initially announced by Apple on March 25th 2019, before launching to around 100 countries over seven months later.
So, is TV+ just another streaming service? What should it be known for? How has it evolved so far?

One year on, what actually IS Apple TV+?

Apple TV+ launched to a lot of fanfare only days before Disney launched its streaming service, Disney+. Disney launched with their massive back catalogue. They also had a few new originals, but they were all very low-key, except for The Mandalorian. Disney’s approach was simple; throw an absolutely massive amount of content online, charge a low price and get lots of subscribers.

HBO also launched their service, HBO Max, this year. It was a strange service that confused a lot of people by being both HBO the channel and also not. They had the advantage of an incredible, high-quality back catalogue but at $15.99 and only being available in America, their reach was limited.

The other big players, of course, are Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. Netflix releases many new titles every week with an extensive back catalogue. Hulu has a substantial collection of TV catchup and originals but is, like HBO, restricted to America. Amazon isn’t that far behind, but their Prime TV service has never been anything more than something to get people onto the shopping site. Not that it doesn’t have some great content.

Then there’s Apple.

In the March 2019 announcement, Apple called TV+ ‘the new home for the world’s most creative storytellers’ and ‘unlike anything that has ever been done before’ and don’t forget ‘not just another streaming service’. They brought massive stars Jennifer Aniston, JJ Abrams, Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg and yes, Oprah, on stage to talk about their new projects. The $4.99 fee to share across up to five ‘family’ members, with a free year for anyone buying a new Apple device, seemed pretty reasonable.

A false start?

Then came the launch, and the reviews. The Morning Show got very mixed reviews. For All Mankind generally got ok if not overly enthusiastic coverage. People seemed to really like Dickenson though again, not excitedly. The same with Servant. See was believed to be an absolute turkey.

This wasn’t the way you wanted to launch your multi-billion dollar ‘groundbreaking’ service.

Other content - Helpsters, Ghost Writer, Snoopy, movies The Elephant Queen and Hala - all generally got positive, though few, reviews

When you launch something like this you want a huge flagship property to reel people in, Disney+ had The Madalorian for example. TV+ seemed to be pitching The Morning Show as that property, but due to the early, mediocre reviews, it never got much traction. Did you hear many people talking about the actual plot week to week?

So the build-up to Apple TV+ - over two years - felt like a slight anti-climax. A lot of people (mainly due to the one-year free trial) were trying it out, but it seemed Apple, a company known for disrupting almost every market they went into, had come up a bit short. It was met with a bit of a shrug by the public at large.

However, as the months have gone by, and more content has come out, that picture has started to change.

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