‘Apple TV+’ launch elicits lukewarm reviews

In an entertainment world dominated by Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video and HBO, tech giant Apple made its first foray into the streaming wars earlier this month, when Apple TV+ launched Nov. 2 to lukewarm reviews.

The service, which carries a price tag of $4.99 a month (unless you purchase a piece of Apple hardware, in which case you get a free year of Apple TV+), is made up exclusively of new, original content. Their library, at the moment, is headlined by four original series, “See” (starring Jason Momoa), “The Morning Show” (starring Jennifer Anniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carrell), “Dickinson” (starring Hailee Steinfeld) and “For All Mankind” (starring Joel Kinnaman), while also including “The Elephant Queen,” an hour-and-a-half nature documentary, “Oprah’s Book Club” and a collection of children’s shows. The service does not include any content not created by Apple, unless you choose to purchase it separately to add to your library.

Nearly two weeks after  the launch of the streaming service, reviews have been mixed at best. “The Elephant Queen” carries a strong 90 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, while the scores for “See” (40 percent), “The Morning Show” (63 percent), “Dickinson” (71 percent) and “For All Mankind” (72 percent) range from solid to downright poor. Perhaps more importantly, none of their four shows has created much discussion in pop culture, with even “The Morning Show,” their most star studded offering, inspiring little conversation.

Still, if Apple’s history with products and services like AirPods, Apple Music, laptops sans DVD slots and iPods has taught us anything, it’s that you can never count Apple out, even if their launch gets off to a shaky start.

“I think so [that I disagree with the idea that first impressions are everything] because you’re dealing with Apple,” said Robert Steel, a professor in DePaul’s film school. “That’s the difference. We talked about all the controversial things that they have done and they keep growing and getting bigger and getting into all of these businesses…. I would never discount Apple.”

However, as it currently stands, Apple TV+ does not inspire excitement in the same way newly launched Disney+ is. In fact, of all the people The DePaulia spoke to for this story, not one, despite them all being self-professed film and TV lovers, had signed up for Apple TV+. For Wesley Crawford, a film student at Temple University, there just weren’t any titles that screamed ‘must watch TV’ to him.

“‘For All Mankind’ is the only one that looks good to me, but that just might be because I am a 20-year-old guy and that kind of stuff is cool to me,” Crawford said. “‘See’ just looks, even from the first trailer, like the most obvious ‘Game of Thrones’ copy that you can see. Just from the trailers it felt so, and I know people worked really hard on it, but it felt pretty uninspired. It felt like a really expensive CW show and from the reviews that is kind of the vibe I’m getting. I feel like ‘The Morning Show’ looked good on paper, but it’s getting the definition of ‘just okay’ reviews.”

For others, like Paul Booth, a professor of media and cinema studies at DePaul, the main issue with Apple TV+ is the lack of recognizable titles in a world where there is already too much TV to keep up with.

“I actually kind of have less interest in Apple TV+ then I do in Disney+, which is only because there is less content on Apple TV+,” Booth said. “I think the interesting thing about Apple is that it’s never really been known as a content producer so there’s kind of questions about what is actually going to go on [the service], and they’ve got some original programming which may or may not be good, but to me it’s not worth it to get them both [Apple TV+ and Disney+]. I can’t keep up with the TV and entertainment that I already subscribe to and that’s not even counting the movies that I want to see in the theatre, or the books I want to read.”

While it’s much too early to close the book on Apple TV+, no matter who you ask, it’s almost certainly not the start they were hoping to get off to. There is still plenty of time, but until Apple is able to produce a true water cooler show, many potential consumers will be unwilling to fork over their hard-earned money.

“While $4.99 means nothing, in the context of everything else, [it’s] becoming just like cable: The more you buy, the more expensive it is and by the end of the month you go, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a lot of money,’” Steel said. “The reviews of the shows have been tepid. They haven’t really interested me and for me it’s all about content. And if there is something that I’m just really, really wanting to see I’ll consider it, but not until then.”