When Apple TV+ debuted in late 2019, it had both a significant advantage and a significant disadvantage. On the plus side, it had strong brand recognition and could easily offer its services for free to customers who purchased new Apple devices (a deal that is, as far as we know, still going on).
Apple TV+, on the other hand, lacked a substantial library. Unlike Netflix, Hulu, and especially IP-branded streamers like HBO Max and Paramount+, Apple TV+ launched with no production history.
Everything created or co-created for its new streaming service was and still is new. That’s risky at a time when many viewers want to rewatch old favourites. But, more than two and a half years after its debut, Apple TV+’s library is steadily expanding
And the streaming service now boasts an Emmy-winning comedy (Ted Lasso). The initial criticism levelled at many of its shows—that for all of their beauty, they lacked substance—is giving way to praise for series with compelling narratives.
They aren’t all great, but at this rate, we’ll soon be able to forget about The Mosquito Coast. And, for Apple TV+’s low monthly fee (currently $4.99), it’s worth it to get access to the best shows, such as the aforementioned breakout juggernaut Ted Lasso, the murder mystery The Afterparty, and the sci-fi thriller Severance.
We’ve ranked 10 notable originals below, excluding documentaries and more kid-oriented programming (like Helpsters and Ghostwriter, which we weren’t crazy about anyway), but we did keep Snoopy because he’s a national treasure and his series on Apple TV+ are genuinely very good.
10. The Snoopy Show and Snoopy in Space
Apple TV+’s Snoopy-related programming continues to grow, and we’re excited about it. Everybody’s favourite pup takes centre stage in the animated series The Snoopy Show, which features three, seven-minute stories about Snoopy and his best friend Woodstock in each of the six episodes.
Of course, the rest of the Peanuts gang, including Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Franklin, Schroeder, and Peppermint Patty, will be along for the ride.
Even though these episodes were created many years after the beloved specials of our childhood, The Snoopy Show’s spirit, voices, and music remain very true to those classics. We’re glad Charlie Brown doesn’t have the same dog like everyone else.
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I’m also pleased to report that Snoopy in Space, in which Snoopy travels to the International Space Station to fulfil his dream of becoming a NASA astronaut, is faithful to the beloved property.
There’s Charlie Brown, who wonders, “Why can’t I have a normal dog?” There’s Lucy, who is always bossy. There’s Peppermint Patty, the know-it-all, and her sidekick Marcie. There’s Franklin, the ever-observant and wise man. The whole gang is here, and it’s fantastic. —Amanda Amatangelo
09. Losing Alice
This Israeli series is a psychological thriller in the style of classic movies. Single White Female—or even more campy films like The Hand That Rocks The Cradle—with the added twist that the woman at the centre of it all is fully aware that she is being manipulated.
The real question is, why is she allowing this to happen? Is it her desire for a celebrity? Boredom? Jealousy of a younger woman’s independence, of not being bound to a husband and children? The answer is left to the audience to determine as they watch the titular film.
Alice (Ayelet Zurer), a director who used to make highly regarded avant-garde films but is now relegated to silly commercials, agrees to direct her actor husband (Gal Toren’s David) in a tantalising and dangerous film co-starring its free-spirited writer, Sophie (Lihi Kornowski).
As a result, Alice becomes obsessed with the plot, her new collaborator’s script, and her personal life—and wonders if reality is stranger than fiction. Whitney Friedlander is an author.
08. Mythic Quest
Mythic Quest thrives in the somewhat Purgatorial, somewhat Hellish realm of pandemic television. The video game workplace comedy (which has, to put it mildly, a niche audience) first appeared on Apple TV+ about a month before the world ended, a faint relic of the forgettable February 2020.
After that, Mythic Quest might have faded away. However, Mythic Quest has gone on to strike a brilliant, lighthearted balance of pandemic living with humour, perhaps thanks to the genius of creators McElhenney, Megan Ganz, and Charlie Day.
While McElhenney shines as the aloof Ian, Charlotte Nicdao’s Poppy emerges as the show’s true star. She is horribly flawed—a stubborn workaholic with no social life but a talent for game design—but she is the ideal foil to Ian’s charismatic ego.
They have off-the-charts chemistry together, hurling insults that sound like compliments and compliments that sound like insults at each other with ease. Both actors who play Longbottom at different ages (F. Murray Abraham and Josh Brener) shine particularly brightly alongside them.
Despite these accomplishments, there is a major flaw. The first season of Mythic Quest introduced a minor issue that has now become unavoidable: the game concept is thoroughly boring.
The Mythic Quest imagery, like the aggressively masculine promotional material, bores rather than enthrals. Still, Mythic Quest is more than its alternately hilarious and unfunny sense of humour.
It embraces interpersonal professional relationships, similar to workplace comedies The Office and Parks and Recreation, but the series never crosses the line. Because capitalism forces these characters to overwork their creative selves, they end up treating each other with little respect.
Though there are touching moments when these people shine, they are never forced to be loved. Nonetheless, the future of Mythic Quest is full of opportunities for these characters to develop, led by the excellent McElhenney and Nicdao. [Complete Review] Peters, Fletcher
07. Home Before Dark
Given how unkindly television and film treat female journalists, Hilde Lisko, Brooklynn Prince’s resolute lead in the series Home Before Dark, could be just the kind of female journalist hero we need right now.
The character, based on award-winning crime reporter Hilde Lysiak, has an almost supernatural memory for detail, understands how to establish rapport with local law enforcement (and determine which ones she can trust), and isn’t afraid to confront established community leaders who may be concealing the truth.
Set in a damp and murky small-town logging community that appears tailor-made for the likes of Special Agent Dale Cooper, Home Before Dark follows the Lisko family as they relocate from Brooklyn to dad Matt’s (Jim Sturgess) childhood home after he loses his newspaper job.
This triggers a chain of events that puts Hilde on the trail of a possible massive cover-up of a child abduction in the 1980s that involves everyone from the sheriff and mayor to Hilde’s grandfather, father, and school principal.
I appreciate Prince’s and the writers’ efforts to make Hilde more than a one-dimensional cute or precocious brat, and that there appears to be some serious fire in her veins when police officers initially dismiss her with a pat on the head.
And do I really want to see—and do I want my children to see—an intrepid female reporter on the case? Yep. Do I wish there were more adult versions of her on television? Obviously.
But don’t I wish the specifics of the job were handled more responsibly, especially in the age of fake news and, especially, if children were going to watch? Uh-huh. [Complete Review] —From Whitney Friedlander
Annie Weisman created and executive produced Physical, which is set in the early 1980s against a sun-drenched San Diego backdrop. It stars Rose Byrne as Sheila Rubin, a dissatisfied housewife who struggles quietly with her self-image and inability to assert herself in nearly every aspect of her life.
This includes her marriage to Danny (Rory Scovel), whose liberal ideals appear to be terminated at the front door. Sheila runs the Rubin household by herself, while also raising a 4-year-old daughter (who mostly exists to scream a lot) and managing Danny’s political campaign.
It is intended to be frustrating to watch, and it succeeds. But Sheila’s story becomes even more complicated when you learn about her profound self-hatred and how it has shaped her self-image for decades.
Everything changes, however, when Sheila discovers a renewed sense of purpose in aerobics, the latest exercise craze sweeping the country. But, while Sheila finds strength and confidence in aerobics, and purpose in her burgeoning business venture, not much else has changed—yet—with Sheila trading one problem for another.
There are times when Sheila and her selfishness threaten to topple the show’s carefully constructed narrative about women’s empowerment.
Physical, on the other hand, is well-made, frequently compelling, and features episodes that are under 30 minutes long. It may even fill some of the void left by Netflix’s cancellation of GLOW-Katherine Thomas
In Severance, a group of people working for an evil company (Lumon Industries) have chosen to undergo the severance procedure in order to mentally separate their work selves from their “real” selves.
This involves needles being inserted into brains, and the end result is worker drones with only the bare minimum of consciousness while at work. They return to the real world the moment they step out of the elevator to go home, forgetting everything that has happened in the previous nine hours.
This may seem appealing if you don’t think about it for more than two minutes. You—the “you” who lives outside of work—get to just cut out the entire crappy workday, as well as any stress and disappointment that comes with it, and your entire life is now just the good parts.
But when you think about it for the third minute, the full horror hits you: You also create a secondary “you” who lives in a godforsaken work zoo, never sleeping, never leaving the building, literally living an entire life of stepping on and off elevators and sitting at a desk, ad nauseam, until your “outie” self decides to retire, at which point you simply die.
We see the main character Mark (Adam Scott) march through a series of blindingly white corridors before meeting Irving (the always-excellent John Turturro) and Dylan in his office (Zach Cherry).
But the real driving force behind the plot is Helly (Britt Lower), a new employee with a mysterious past, and Petey (Yul Vazquez), Mark’s former coworker who is attempting to bridge.
The gap between the innies and outies and figure out what the hell Lumon Industries is up to. For the time being, Severance is determined to keep the other side a secret. [Complete Review] Ryan, Shane
Apple TV+ has been on a roll, and with its new trilingual epic, Pachinko, it has struck gold. Through Sonja’s eyes, Pachinko spans three distinct periods in Korean history. The show depicts the hardships Koreans faced during Japanese rule through Sonja’s childhood (Jeon Yu-na).
Adolescence (Kim Min-ha), and senior years (Academy Award winner Youn Yuh-Jung). But, before you think this show is only about history, there’s an intriguing romance with a man linked to Japanese gangsters (Lee Min-ho) and an immigration story filled with heartbreak and longing.
Although the series focuses on a specific period in the lives of a Korean family, the themes are universal to anyone connected to a diaspora or who has experienced unfair treatment.
Pachinko has laid the groundwork for even more riveting stories from Sonja and her extended family by the end of the first season. —Maximal Covill
03. Slow Horses
MI5’s “Slow Horses” are exiles, screw-ups, and has-beens who are no longer wanted where the action is hot. Jackson Lamb, their leader, is a slovenly, cynical, and occasionally cruel boss who appears to be the very definition of washed up.
But, thanks to Gary Oldman’s brilliant performance, we learn that there’s more to him than meets the eye, just waiting to be revealed by the right circumstances. He is the focal point of this superb spy drama, and he is surrounded by a stellar cast that includes Jack Lowden and Kristin Scott Thomas.
Slow Horses joins a very short list of recent TV series from the espionage genre that rises to the level of greatness in terms of its many strengths. Even more impressive, it accomplishes this through the strength of injured people.
Humanity beats within them, from Lamb to Cartwright and all their pitiful coworkers. This show accomplishes the incredible feat of being a human redemption story, a genuine comedy, and, above all, a fantastic spy story.
Apple TV+ has a hit on its hands, and unlike the sad, exiled souls of Slough House, you won’t have to look far to see it. Ryan, Shane
02. The Afterparty
If I had to describe Christopher Miller’s genre-bending murder mystery The Afterparty in one word, it would be “super-freaking-fun.” The first season, which consists of eight episodes, follows the investigation of a high-profile murder that occurs at a high school reunion afterparty.
Each episode is a retelling of the night’s events as seen through the lens of a different popular film genre that corresponds to the person being interrogated’s perspective and personality.
As a result, the series operates within and parodies not only the formulaic murder mystery, but also romantic comedies, psychological thrillers, musicals, and high school movies.
It’s not a particularly deep show, but with a cast full of actors and actresses who are frequently the funniest and best parts of every project they’re in, it’s an exceptionally good time from beginning to end-Katherine Thomas
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Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) are two New York doctors who embark on a camping trip to bring them closer together in this six-episode series from executive producer Lorne Michaels.
They become disoriented along the way and end up stranded in Schmigadoon! Despite their best efforts, they can’t leave until they find true love. That means Melissa and Josh aren’t as in love as they (especially Melissa) thought they were.
The series manages to be both an adoring homage and a spot-on satire of the genre; every trope is lovingly upended, and every plot difficulty is laid bare. (Let’s face it: women didn’t fare well in classic musicals. In Carousel, there’s a “what can you do but love him?
“Song about an abusive husband.) Melissa explains the reproductive system in a song that sounds a lot like “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music. “What are they laughing about?” Nothing remotely amusing just happened?” Josh ponders at the end of one song.
There are references to “colour-blind casting,” and Melissa exclaims at the start of a dream ballet, “We’re not having a dream ballet.” They’re annoying and stupid, and they slow down everything.
“Will you enjoy the show if you’ve never seen a musical and have no idea what’s being parodied? Maybe. However, this is a show for Broadway fans only—Amanda Amatangelo