Apple is making its big bid into the streaming market with the simultaneous launch of its Apple TV+ service and four star-studded shows with budgets rivaling that of "Game of Thrones." But does Apple's extravagant spending equal high quality and entertainment value or has all that money been a giant misfire? The early reviews of four of Apple TV Plus' original shows (all of which are premiering on November 1) — "The Morning Show," "See," "For All Mankind" and "Dickinson" — just dropped this morning, and here's what the reviews have to say.
'The Morning Show'
The Morning Show is really three different TV shows in one, all on a collision course with one another. There's the story of Alex Levy (Aniston), co-anchor of a popular nationwide news program called "The Morning Show" who is deep in contract negotiations with the network to extend her run on the show despite being perceived as being past her prime; there is Alex's co-anchor Mitch Kessler (Carell), whose arc opens the series as he is very publicly fired from "The Morning Show" after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct leak to the press; and then there's Bradley Jackson (Witherspoon), a "conservative" (the kind of fictional, liberal-leaning conservative you only see on TV) field anchor working for a conservative news network in middle America who gains national attention after a confrontation with a coal mining protestor goes viral.
"The Morning Show" is the showiest of Apple TV+'s new series, starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon in a drama with a timely tie-in to the back-in-the-headlines scandal surrounding Matt Lauer's "Today" show exit. As executed, though, hold that wake-up call, considering that most of its big ideas essentially rehash ground "Network" covered more than 40 years ago.
After a brutally dull pilot and a meandering second episode, there are distinct hints in the third hour of a more satisfying and confident The Morning Show, one that actually gets value out of leading ladies Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. But did the behemoths at Apple really get into the crowded original TV marketplace to become the latest perpetrator of "It eventually gets better!" patience-testing?
Watching "The Morning Show" is a bit like watching "The Big Short," except nothing is said straight-to-camera and nearly everything is boring.
Taking on a number of provocative topics, including and especially gender issues emanating from the toxic swamp of the breakfast-hour television industry, "The Morning Show" is perpetually on the human side, punting on the questions it itself puts forward in favor of airily treating them as too complicated. It's early days for the show, whose first three episodes were provided to critics. But it's hard to imagine that viewers excited by a series that promises to take on so much being satisfied by the exhaustion that bleeds out of the writers' room onto the screen. The show gives up on its potential before it's really underway, substituting career machinations for something more nourishing.
The Morning Show isn't terrible […] But the series is a well-polished snore, a prime example of how throwing money at a problem — in this case, Apple's need to dive into the streaming wars now that Netflix and company have killed off the revenue stream from buying individual TV episodes — isn't inherently the best way to solve it.
Watch The Trailer Here
The show is set centuries in the future, long after a virus has wiped out most of humanity and rendered those who survived blind. (Jason) Momoa plays Baba Voss, a celebrated warrior whose wife gives birth to twins in the pilot. While that would typically be seen as a joyous occasion, these twins are born with the gift of sight, making them immediate targets. Everyone–from a gang of witch hunters to a ruthless queen of the post-apocalyptic wasteland–wants the children for themselves.
Through its first three episodes, Apple TV+'s new drama See is a roller coaster of a show. No hour went by without my checking my watch, giggling at several ridiculous performance choices and writing down multiple nonsensical plot points in my notes. Yet no hour went by without a concept or two that I found intriguing, a shot or two that I found breathtaking or an action scene that I found ambitious.
As you'll find is a trend with this first batch of Apple TV+ originals, See isn't close to a good show thus far, but it does just enough to make you believe that under the right circumstances, there might be a good show here somewhere, eventually.
While the unbending certainty of See's storytelling ambitions is admirable, it doesn't hurt that the series also looks like a million bucks (or tens of millions of bucks per episode). That's no surprise, as much has been made already about the exorbitant budgets Apple has poured into its slate of flagship originals. With a mixture of gorgeous locations and CGI, the series convincingly creates a dystopian world that barely remembers its past.
See is at its best when it introduces yet another terrifying nomadic gangster, at which point you can tell it is the creation of Peaky Blinders writer Steven Knight, or when Momoa gets up close and ruthless with a foe who wants to threaten his people […] There are enough of those thrilling set pieces, blood spattering the camera lens, to compensate for the ponderous longueur in between.
See is part of Apple TV+'s inaugural slate of programming, but it resembles enough of the bleak tales that have proliferated in recent years that it's unlikely to be the series that set the new streamer apart. After a cliffhanger, the remaining episodes could take the rest of the season in a more promising direction, but that will require See to venture as far away from the familiar as its characters.
Watch The Trailer Here
Hailee Steinfeld stars as a rebellious teen Emily Dickinson in this sexed-up Apple TV+ comedy based on the poet's life.
To best enjoy the new Apple TV+ series "Dickinson," you need to disabuse yourself of the notion that it has anything to do with posthumous poetry goddess and all-around depressive Emily Dickinson. That's the only way you'll be able to wrap your head around the anachronistic half-hour comedy from Alena Smith, dedicated to rebranding the poet as a rebellious #teen who never met a rule she couldn't break.
Having seen the first three episodes of Dickinson for this review, I can confidently tell you this show is a ray of light. The half-hour series is very much cut from the same cloth as the teen dramas populating Freeform and The CW with tinges of HBO's Euphoria, all filtered through the same anachronistic lens that gave us 2006's Marie Antoinette.
Dickinson is so fun and so strange and so tireless in handing out little moments of character development, with wildly original mood setting, you could watch thousands of hours of television and still not think to expect, of course, the Dickinson who scrawled out "Wild nights - Wild nights!" and left behind thousands of scraps of genius in a locked chest would dig it.
[O]verall, Alena Smith's Dickinson blends the evergreen charm of similarly framed period tales—where young women firmly rebel against societal norms in the name of spiritual freedom—with the unabashedly modern tone of Drunk History. And for the most part, it works.
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'For All Mankind'
An alt-history period drama set at the height of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, the series hails from Ron D. Moore, a guy who knows a thing or two about blending period dramas with high-concept genre elements, as he's not only made the adaptation of Outlander a hit for Starz, he also reimagined and redefined Battlestar Galactica for a new generation.
Across its opening season, this new Apple TV+ drama certainly does its best to rewrite the NASA history books. But that reimagining comes with a series of self-imposed narrative restraints. Presented with a bevy of options, "For All Mankind" spends most of its episodes presenting this new world in the least imaginative and most inert ways possible.
For its first half, the 10-episode show doesn't always succeed in balancing its storylines. Sometimes it feels like For All Mankind could just be about the group of women training to be astronauts in the face of skepticism, sexism and a steaming pile of microaggressions, partly because the women face plenty such obstacles […] At other times, the show is about a greater identity crisis at NASA.
It's not that the show can't or shouldn't encompass all those elements. It just has a tendency to let certain plotlines wander, only to resurface them, giving you a moment of, "Oh yeah, that's still happening."
The AppleTV+ series is a solid effort at epic, alternate-history storytelling, but feels a bit derivative and moves too slowly.
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Is It Worth Getting Apple TV Plus, Based On These Reviews?
Reviews have been generally mixed for the Apple TV Plus shows, with "Dickinson" faring the better among the four and "The Morning Show" turning out to be the most disappointing despite its high-wattage cast.
Launching this Friday, Apple TV Plus currently has the lowest subscription price among all the services at $5 a month. Its low costs might still make it enticing to some subscribers, but if the question is whether or not Apple can face off against competitors like Netflix or Disney+ based on its current offerings, the answer seems to be "no." Based on current reviews, the shows on the platform are a mixed bag and seem far from becoming the platform's "House of Cards," let alone the next "Game of Thrones."