This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
I recently did a little math.
(Thank you, your prayers and sympathies were much appreciated in this difficult time.)
Basically, if I subscribed to all of the streaming services storming our lives, free time, and bank accounts—even limiting it to just the major ones—I would, when you factor in the bajillion dollars (rough estimate) I’m being charged for barely-working internet in my apartment, be paying more than what I’m already paying for cable. And not to reveal too much about my finances, but my current cable bill is such that my bank account lets out an audible, pained whimper on the first of every month.
Obviously there is much more to it than this, but, perhaps naively, I assumed that part of the appeal of cord-cutting and piecemeal-subscribing to these various services was that cable packages had become egregious and financially untenable. But now y’all gonna make me pay $14.99 to stream Friends.
That’s the price point—$14.99—that was just announced for HBO Max, the streaming service that’s coming in May 2020, bringing with it exclusive streaming rights to Friends, Rick and Morty, and South Park, plus a slew of original programming completely separate from HBO’s current offerings, including new series from Elizabeth Banks, Mindy Kaling, Issa Rae, Greg Berlanti, Ridley Scott, and a Gossip Girl reboot.
As if you weren’t already calling for a #TooMuchTV life raft, there’s the more immediate concern of Apple TV+ and Disney+.
The former launches today, November 1, for $4.99, though it’s included on some new iPhones and Apple devices, if you’re rich enough to afford those. (Fancy you.) Mickey Mouse is coming for your bank account 11 days later at $6.99 per month for Disney+. This is all on top of what you’re probably already playing for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, CBS All Access, and Showtime Now—and not factoring in the upcoming Peacock platform, with its exclusive rights to The Office.
So, is any of it worth it?
The answer is... sure??? Also, of course not! At least with these big two new services that are coming, the answer is more of a why not.
They’re extremely different. Apple TV+ is launching with a small handful of series on Friday. Frankly, none of them are amazing. They are all, however, almost good. Very expensive, incredibly bizarre shows starring very famous people who are all almost good.
The Morning Show stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, and the ghost of Matt Lauer, who is murdered by the show’s #MeToo commentary. It is, implausibly, considering it takes place largely on the set of a talk show, one of the costliest TV series of all-time. It is often frustrating, occasionally brilliant, and bafflingly imperfect. And yet I can’t wait to watch another episode. Very unhelpful, I know! (Read my full review here. I need the clicks if I’m going to be able to afford all these new subscriptions.)
Dickinson, or “the Horny Emily Dickinson series” as it’s been dubbed by social media, is bonkers and clever, until it’s exhausting and boring. (My full review here. Click!!!) Then there’s See, starring blind Jason Momoa in a dystopian civilization in which the queen speaks to God through masturbation and orgasm. (!?!?!) For All Mankind is basically NASA fanfic.
None of them are, really, must-see TV series. But it’s also just $4.99. So, sure? Subscribe, I guess? It’s Apple. Resistance is futile.
What separates Apple TV+ from Disney+ and most other streaming services is that it’s not arriving with a library of already-existing properties. It’s just these mediocre shows, with more originals in the pipeline. Disney+, by contrast, will launch with almost every single Disney film ever made, which for some is worth the price alone—and for those who have children in their lives, your new Christmas gift idea.
It will have originals, too. In the grand tradition of Netflix, too many originals, really. Slow your roll, Disney+.
There are some bright spots—Encore! is a cute gem—and some wild ones—High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, actual name—but none of them are, really, must see-TV series. But it’s also just $6.99. So, sure? Subscribe, I guess? It’s Disney. Resistance is futile.
And thus is the slippery slope, and the great con of #TooMuchTV. That same, “Sure!” argument will likely apply to HBO Max, and then to Peacock, and then to, I don’t know, whatever streaming service the programmers of the TV that plays in the back of taxi cabs decide to launch. I wouldn’t be surprised. So where do you draw the line? I haven’t decided yet. I’m too busy taking out a bank loan so that I can afford to watch television next year.