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After months of hype and big-money deals, Apple is finally rolling out its new streaming service, Apple TV+, this Friday. But who wants to fork over money for yet another streamer without knowing if the shows are any good?
That’s where we come in: Apple’s new service debuts with four original series, and we’ve already screened episodes of all four. For the glitziest show — the Jennifer Aniston/Reese Witherspoon daytime TV dramedy The Morning Show — we’ve done a separate, lengthier review, which you can read here. (And fair warning: The early returns are not good.) But we also wanted to give you a taste of Apple’s other initial offerings, so you can better judge if it’s worth handing over $4.99 each month to subscribe.
Read on for our quick takes on Apple TV+’s three other new shows — and see which one earns an enthusiastic thumbs-up from us.
This ambitious alt-history drama from Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica, Outlander) starts with an admittedly gripping premise: What if the Soviet Union beat out the USA to put the first man on the moon? Joel Kinnaman leads an ensemble cast as a ’60s NASA astronaut who is left fuming after the humiliating defeat and is determined not to let America fall behind. The space-race angle has real bite, and the series gleams with rich period detail. But the final product is a bit dramatically inert: It tries to juggle too many characters at once, and doesn’t make any of them as compelling as its core concept. It’s a noble effort, and genuinely stirring at times, but I’m still waiting for it to really take flight. Grade: B-minus
Maybe the most technically daring series in Apple’s early slate, this bleak post-apocalyptic drama imagines a future where a virus has wiped out nearly all of humanity — and left all survivors blind. What’s left is a primitive society filled with animal pelts and dimly lit caves. (Although I swear I spotted a plastic water bottle in there as well.) Jason Momoa is definitely in his element as tribe leader Baba Voss, but the whole endeavor is just too ridiculous to take seriously. The dialogue is grim and terse, with silly terms like “the Witchfinder General” and “the Land of the Sun Grave” being uttered with deadly seriousness. See relies on graphically gory battle scenes to carry a largely incoherent story, but I found myself giggling far more often than its creators intended. You almost have to admire its goofy confidence… as wrongheaded as it might be. Grade: D
Apple does have one truly promising entry, though, in this devilishly clever comedy that imagines famed poet Emily Dickinson as a moody, rebellious young woman played by Hailee Steinfeld. With an edgy sensibility and a modern-day score of jangly indie rock and thumping hip-hop, Dickinson is a sharp parody of stuffy period dramas, with a healthy dose of overheated teen soap dramatics as well. Steinfeld is excellent as Emily, armed with a delightful, Wednesday Addams-like morbid streak. (When her sister compliments the “lovely funeral” they just attended, Emily sniffs: “Mine will be better.”) Of all of Apple’s new shows, this one actually made me want to watch a second episode, and has the kind of breakout potential that a new streaming service desperately needs. Grade: B-plus
Which Apple TV+ shows are you most excited to see? Tell us in the comments.