Steven Spielberg, Oprah, and More Unveil New TV Shows for Apple+ Streaming Service—and Leave Major Questions Unanswered
Hollywood stars took the stage at Apple’s big event to tout new shows and films debuting on the company’s new streaming service, but there’s still much we don’t know.
In a massive Hollywood-inspired press event Monday afternoon, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the long-awaited launch of Apple+, the company’s foray into original content through a buzzy streaming service.
Two years after taking their first steps into scripted content, Apple’s streaming service will finally launch sometime this fall. The ad-free subscription service boasts downloadable content and new content every single month, all of which will be available in over 100 countries.
In what essentially functioned as TV upfronts for Apple, Hollywood A-listers took the stage to vaguely discuss their upcoming shows, focusing more on esoteric questions than solid information. How much users will have to pay remains one of the many Apple+ questions still unanswered.
Steven Spielberg appeared first to represent his upcoming revival of Amazing Stories. “We want to transport the audience with every episode,” he said, without elaborating on how he plans to do so. The new anthology is a relaunch of his short-lived 1985 series on NBC, itself an adaption of the 93-year-old science fiction magazine of the same name.
Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell followed with their new show, The Morning Show. Aniston is returning for her first TV series regular role since Friends ended in 2004. She’ll play a news anchor battling antiquated gender dynamics and drama, in a story inspired by Brian Stelter’s book Top of the Morning about the inner workings of The Today Show.
Next up, Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard talked ambiguously about See, a futuristic saga in which humans have long since lost the sense of sight. Its enlightened question: how important is the visual world?
Thankfully, Kumail Nanjiani supplied some specifics on his own anthology Little America, created alongside his The Big Sick co-writer and wife Emily V. Gordon. “When people defend immigration, they focus on exceptionality of immigrants,” Nanjiani said, mentioning his own journey from Pakistan to Iowa. “It’s about human stories that feature immigrants.”
Others to take the stage included J.J. Abrams and Sara Bareilles, touting her semi-autobiographical tale about an aspiring singer in New York, Little Voice—also the name of her 2007 debut studio album. Bareilles performed the theme song, singing, “It’s my little voice that I’ve been missing.”
Though Apple premiered a sizzle reel featuring clips from their various shows, none of the announcements came with individual trailers, offering little more than taglines. It’s unclear how many shows will debut in the fall or how far along each is in production.
Oprah came out for the send-off and to provide a dose of intention. She has two documentaries in the works with Apple: Toxic Labor will look at harassment in the workplace while an untitled series will chronicle mental health struggles “devastating life daily across the globe.” With these shows, she hopes to replace shame and stigma with “wisdom, some compassion and honesty.”
Winfrey also announced the launch of the next era of her famed Oprah’s Book Club. Through Apple’s TV app, she’ll host streamable conversations with book authors. No details were announced on where, when or how the book club 2.0 will launch. “They’re in a billion pockets, y’all. A billion pockets. The whole world’s got them in their hands and [that] represents an opportunity to make a genuine impact,” Winfrey said of partnering with Apple. Her intention is to “illuminate consciousness and build greater awareness through compelling conversations.”
Other shows previously announced by Apple but which did not take the stage included Chris Evans’ turn as a lawyer in peril, Brie Larson’s take on a CIA agent and even a Peanuts deal bringing Snoopy and his gang back for more adventures. Damien Chazelle and Taika Waititi are among the many filmmakers with undisclosed projects in the works at Apple.
Hailee Steinfeld, set to play a comedic take on Emily Dickinson, sat for the presentation alongside her co-star Jane Krakowski. She was reportedly joined in the audience by fellow Apple-recruited celebrities, including Octavia Spencer and Aaron Paul of the upcoming Truth Be Told.
The presentation made no mention of Apple’s partnership with A24, the film studio behind Moonlight, Lady Bird and Hereditary. Upcoming films presumably to be released on Apple+ include a Lost in Translation reunion with Bill Murray starring in Sofia Coppola’s On The Rocks as the playboy dad to a young mother played by Rashida Jones. No release date was announced, and it remains unclear if Apple+ films will receive a limited theatrical release like Amazon’s studio films.
While Apple+ hasn’t even launched yet, it’s already faced some serious roadblocks with Tim Cook reportedly meddling with many of the shows. The Wall Street Journal reported in September that a Dr. Dre-inspired scripted series was scrapped in part for showing cocaine use, an orgy and drawn guns. Similarly, comedienne Whitney Cumming’s series alongside Empire creator Lee Daniels about a college campus grappling with the #MeToo era was dropped for concern over “sensitive topics.”
Even Aniston and Witherspoon, both executive producers, were told to be more “upbeat” with The Morning Show’s tone. It remains to be seen how Cook’s direction meshes with what Witherspoon called at the announcement a “high-velocity thrill ride in which we pose questions without easy answers and shine light… on this cultural moment.”
To access the plethora of new content, Apple also announced the launch of their Apple TV app, a hybrid of their iTunes movie catalog and cable service bundle, to have users pay only for the channels they watch. HBO, Hulu, Amazon Prime and CBS All access are all a part of the Apple TV app in addition to most cable channels. Notably absent is Netflix, solidifying rumors the streaming service won’t be joining their new competitor’s bundle.