Though I’ve been an Apple TV+ subscriber for going on a year — mostly because a free year came with my iPhone 12 Mini — I still don’t quite understand it. A streaming service with almost nothing on it except for the scant original content Apple has managed to produce doesn’t make sense to me, not in the era of a billion competing services, not even for $7.99 per month.
True, I pay more than that for a handful of Patreon-exclusive episodes of my favourite podcasts, but when stacked up against the offerings of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and— hell, even Paramount+ — it doesn’t seem worth it, even at half or a third of their price.
On the other hand, a lot of what does make it onto Apple TV+ is, well, good. The internet still can’t stop talking about Ted Lasso, and Mythic Quest is a fine (better even?) replacement for HBO’s Silicon Valley. Alt-history space race saga For All Mankind is one of the best ongoing shows you probably aren’t watching.
So yeah, there’s good stuff. It’s just a question whether anything good has come out recently… so let’s look at what’s coming to Apple TV+ in September.
Foundation (premieres Sept. 24)
Let’s start with the biggie: Apple’s no-expenses-spared, CGI-laden attempt to monopolize the prestige TV discussion with a sci-fi answer to HBO’s Game of Thrones: Foundation.
Any nerd of a certain age can tell you why Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy (which expanded into more than a trilogy decades later, but only the first three count) is important to the genre’s history — for one thing, fans once voted it the best book series of all time, albeit way back in 1966 (did I mention these books are old?). Cerebral and expansive, packing a vast future history into a relatively slim page count, the books thoughtfully imagine a future for humanity built more on philosophical ideas than space stations and explosions, and people have been trying to make a movie out of them for years. A TV show works too, I guess.
But thoughtfulness in sci-fi also screams niche audience, and if the trailer is anything to go on, co-creators David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight) and Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds, Terminator: Dark Fate) definitely seem to be wringing as much action as they can out of a premise that basically boils down to “space monks use maths to predict the future.” The trailer sure looks pretty though, doesn’t it? I can’t decide which part I like best, the space elevator (pictured at the top of this article) or Lee Pace’s eyebrows.
Come From Away (Premieres Sept. 10)
Well-timed to coincide with the somber 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks comes this stage-to-screen adaptation of a Tony Award-winning musical about the events of that day and the weeks that followed, as seen by the residents of a small Newfoundland town that wound up playing host to thousands of air travellers who became stranded there when their planes were diverted amid the chaos.
As you can see from the trailer, this is pretty much a straight translation of the stage show to the screen, a la Disney+’s recent presentation of Hamilton. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all — I got a chance to see Come From Away on Broadway, and it is very much a stage show, with a small cast taking up multiple roles and the drama flowing fluidly from one scene to another via hastily assembled and deconstructed sets that emphasise the ever-shifting chaos and uncertainty of that time.
Also, despite the dramatic backdrop, this is truly a Canadian story at heart — the plot boils down to “a bunch of extremely polite people try to be as welcoming as possible,” and there’s an entire song about finding enough toilet paper. You don’t want to oversell it with flashy production design. (Not that I want to undersell it, either — the filmed version features the same cast I saw on stage, and they’re phenomenal; just try to make it through “Me and the Sky” without sobbing). I’m very glad to have this show, and these performances, preserved for posterity.
The Morning Show (Season 2 premiere Sept. 17)
Aside from Ted Lasso, no Apple TV+ series has quite captured the zeitgeist, despite titanic marketing efforts (and production budgets). The Morning Show probably came closest, thanks in no small part to the involvement of superstars the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carrell.
The first season received mixed reviews and a muted response from viewers, at least on social media; maybe the general public isn’t quite as fascinated by the behind-the-scenes at a TV news show as Hollywood imagined. Still, there’s soapy fun to be had, as the trailer for season two makes clear:
Will season two improve enough to secure a season three, especially given this is one of the most expensive TV series ever made, with nary a spaceship or White Walker in sight? That’s a headline for tomorrow.