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Bullet Sunday 636: Apple TV+ Edition

Posted on Sunday, November 3rd, 2019

Dave!Worried you don't have time to watch all those new Apple TV shows? Well worry no more, because an all new Very Special Apple TV+ Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Who Dis? And lo did Apple decree that some of their billions of dollars shall be put aside to create their own media, and it was done. And lo did Apple then decree that all new iPhone purchasers would get a year of Apple TV+ for free, and it was done. And since I had a bunch of work to tackle all day yesterday, I just let Apple TV+ shows run while I was working. There are hits and misses, but most of it is just a "why?" situation. There's nothing so revolutionary here that Apple just had to step up with a pile of money to make sure they were seen. It's pretty much just more of the same.

   
The Morning Show. The opening shot of the first episode of this show is Mark Duplass answering his iPhone. The next shot is Steve Carell answering his iPhone. The next is Jennifer Aniston ignoring a call on her iPhone. Reese Witherspoon is too busy putting on eyeliner for me to see her phone, but the guy in back of her in the car has an iPhone. While not unrealistic that absolutely everybody on earth would all own iPhones, it does seem like a ridiculous abundance of product placement and left me wondering if the show was going to revolve around Apple products instead of stories and actors. Fortunately, that wasn't the case. But it was still jarring to see Apple absolutely everywhere when the real world doesn't work like that. And "the real world" is what they're trying to give us: When the co-host of a popular morning news show is fired for sexual misconduct, personal politics and interpersonal relationships are put to the test...

It may be only three episodes so far, but like this show. I like it quite a lot. It's deliciously twisty and appropriately ruthless without being overly-complex, stifling, or boring. The acting talent is impeccable. It's rumored that Aniston and Witherspoon are making TWO MILLION DOLLARS PER EPISODE. This seems wildly excessive. But when they make millions upon millions for movies, that's what it's going to cost to get that kind of talent on your TV show. I'm not saying they're necessarily worth that in the context of The Morning Show, but I will say that they elevate things to a level you probably wouldn't have gotten from many others. And don't discount Steve Carell... his character is equal parts horrifying and charisma, and he's great. Everybody is. That's what $15 million an episode gets you.

   
See. "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." Or is he? Let's assume that I can put aside the complete lapse of logic which permeates this show. Let's further assume that I can overlook the ableist aspects of the concept behind the show. And let's finally assume that I can dismiss the obvious idea that Apple wanted their own Game of Thrones for launch, and See (featuring Khal Drago!) is that show. Assuming all that... and you can... I still couldn't get into this post-apocalyptic show about what happens when most of the population of earth is wiped out, those two million remaining are blinded, centuries afterwards everybody thinks that sight is a myth which is heresy to speak of, and evolution has brought us to a time when some are being born with the ability to... see...

Each episode costs $15 million. The same as being spent on The Morning Show. And yet... for the life of me I cannot figure out where all that money is going. It's just inconceivable to me that I'm looking at $15 million per installment. Maybe if $10 million an episode was going to Alfre Woodard that would explain things. I dunno. What I do know is that I was bored bored bored by the goofy lameness of it all. High concept needs to have high entertainment value. This just... doesn't. From bizarre crap like the queen's unorthodox method of "praying" to the whole "betrayal among us" trope being the entire crux of future hurdles... it's just so tired. I don't hate the show, I just don't know if I will make time to watch future episodes. Maybe if I'm bored and there's nothing else on?

   
For All Mankind. This terrific alternate-history series is just so... pretty. Not just because of the money put into making it look great... but because nothing puts all of humanity into such vivid perspective as our quest to reach the stars. Yes, things start slowing down after the first episode, but it's still pretty good stuff.

I had read nothing about the series, ignored all the "first look" videos, and had no idea what the show was about until I watched. At the time I was anticipating Apple TV+ costing $12.95 a month, so why invest the time in something I won't see? Because of this, the extended opening which defines the entire series took me completely by surprise. In a good way. Hopefully nobody has spoiled it for you, because surprises this finely crafted don't come along that often! For this reason, I am NOT including the advertisement video here. It spoils everything! I'm hopeful this is headed somewhere interesting.

   
Snoopy in Space. I actually liked the computer-rendered Peanuts movie. I found it beautifully rendered and fully faithful to both the comic strip and the animated specials. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Apple's first effort with the property was to be traditionally-animated. Though, from the looks of things, it's not so traditional. It's too fine and too clean and definitely looks digitally drawn. Not a good look...

But the real importance here would be the story. How does it live up to what Charles Shultz created? It doesn't. The plot is that Snoopy dreams of being an astronaut and breaks into NASA's astronaut training program so he can go into space. Since the Peanuts universe doesn't have adults you can understand, there's an absurd and annoyingly emotional computer standing in. What follows is mundane explorations into NASA, the ISS, the moon, and Mars. And it's so awful.

As a lover of the original Peanuts strips... a liker of the original Peanuts television specials... this show fell completely flat for me. It's like they took popular Peanuts elements that people would recognize and jammed them together into a NASA-sponsored docu-series. There's no real charm or genuine humor here and the story is both horrible and boring. Especially if you love Peanuts, in which case it's just insulting.

   
Dickinson. Needless to say, a teen angst reinvention of Emily Dickinson's early life was not going to be my cup of tea. I don't give two shits about that kind of CW crap. And yet... I was genuinely curious to see where Apple would go with this. I'm a fan of Dickinson's poetry and writings, and their nature is ripe for interpreting her life...

Alas, what we got was a complete mess. It's a period piece injected with thumping modern music and familiar modern tropes, but not in a necessarily edgy, interesting, or clever way. Characters use phrases like "I'm pretty psyched about it!" and "Totally!" and "This is bullshit!" which is somehow supposed to be funny or something. What actually was funny was seeing Wiz Khalifa pop up as Death with his magical coach pulled by ghostly fire horses and Jane Krakowski gliding through her every scene as if she's a Jenna Maroney parody of Emily's mom. Everything else fails to hold together. One minute Emily is baking bread for her father as an apology for getting caught sitting in at an all-male lecture on volcanoes at Amherst... the next she's getting fingered by her brother's fiancé as some words from her poem I have never seen "Volcanoes" appear on screen and images of bread baking in a hot oven pop up. It's like they didn't even try. Just one silly, contrived situation after another ("Let's have an opium party so I can hallucinate dancing with a giant talking bee!"). I made it through four episodes... fast forwarded through the last half of the fifth... then skipped to the ninth and tenth just to be done with it. I'm sure there are people who will love this, but it's sure not me.

   
The Elephant Queen. If you've ever seen the show Meerkat Manor which documents the life of meerkats struggling to survive their cruel world, The Elephant Queen will feel a bit familiar. This documentary follows Athena, an African elephant trying to save her heard once they are forced to leave their old watering hole in search of a new one...

Beautiful to look at and nicely narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor, this is a wonderful but somewhat superficial film. Sure there's tragedy and death along the way. But no mention of poachers despite that being a serious threat and always topical... I mean, come on, even Disney World managed to add poaching into their Kilimanjaro Safari ride at Animal Kingdom. If there's a negative here, it would be the unnecessary addition of comical sound effects and some clueless music queues. Even so, it's a compelling film that's worth your valuable time.

   
• More to Come... Though Apple doesn't have much content, they seem intent of keeping it coming. Up next are a show by M. Night Shyamalan... a show by Rob McElhennrey and Charlie Day... a show with Octavia Spencer... a show with Chris Evans... more Amazing Stories... more Time Bandits... and, of particularly interest to me, a new series based on Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels. Among others. Odds are, they're going to be fairly watchable given the amount of money and talent Apple is dumping on them. We shall see.

   
And... not a bad start. The only complete misfire was Snoopy (what were they thinking?) and even that might have appeal to some. Whether or not I'll pay $5 a month to keep it going a year from now will entirely depend on what's playing at that time. Another series for The Morning Show would be enough for me to pay a couple months, but I'm guessing Apple will have a lot more in store than just that.

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Categories: Apple Stuff 2019, Television 2019Click To It: Permalink
   

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