November 1st is the worldwide launch date for Apple TV Plus, Apple's new subscription service, available on your iPhone, iPad, Mac and other Apple devices for just €4.99 a month.
Watching TV used to be so uncomplicated. We had just a handful of channels, but all the time in the world to sit around watching telly. Now we’ve got a world of viewing choices, but precious little time to actually watch anything.
And while we're still trying to catch up on Stranger Things on Netflix or The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime, along comes another subscription TV service looking for a slice of our time and a share of our monthly entertainment budget.
It's Apple's answer to Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, but with one big difference: all the content is original, commissioned by Apple and featuring a raft of top stars – including Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, Jason Momoa, Oprah Winfrey, Samuel L Jackson and Snoopy the dog – to add some serious bang for your five bucks.
It’s the first-ever global video service with an all-original lineup, so don’t expect any series you’ve already seen on network TV, or movies you’ve seen in the cinema. Instead, subscribers will get “all-original stories from the best, brightest and most creative minds”, according to Apple’s head of worldwide video Zack Van Amburg.
The content may be all-original, but it’s also almost all American, and some of the offerings may not translate transatlantically; but with new shows being added every month, let’s hope we soon get some more geographically diverse flavours.
So, how do you get a bite of Apple TV Plus? The service is available on the Apple TV app on your iPhone or other Apple device for €4.99 a month, with a seven-day free trial. The app also features Family Sharing, which allows up to six people to share one subscription.
When you buy a new iPhone or other Apple device, you’ll get Apple TV Plus free for a year, so that’s an incentive if you’re thinking of upgrading or switching to Apple products.
You can’t get Apple TV Plus on Android at the moment, although if you have the Apple TV set-top box, you should be able to get AppleTV+ on your smart telly. For the moment, Apple TV Plus is an Apple service for Apple people, and if you’re in that elite club, here’s what’s on offer for your delight and delectation.
Say goodbye to that last block of free time.
The Morning Show, from November 1st
Every subscription service needs a flagship programme, and Apple TV Plus is touting The Morning Show as its marquee series. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, this comedy drama brings you behind the scenes at a US television network during a period of huge upheaval. Aniston plays morning show host Alex Levy, whose job is suddenly on the line after her co-host, Mitch Kessler (Carell) is fired over a sexual misconduct allegation.
The network brings in young gun Bradley Jackson (Witherspoon), and – cliche alert – the two women lock horns for dominance of their TV domain. Sounds like a winner, but do we always have to fall back on the powerful-women-in-a-catfight trope?
See, from November 1st
With Netflix churning out the sci-fi (Star Trek Discovery, The Expanse, Another Life etc), Apple TV Plus needs a big, futuristic concept of its own, and here’s Jason Momoa in a story set 600 years into the future, following an apocalyptic event that leaves the entire human race, er, visually impaired.
Momoa plays Baba Voss, father of twins with amazing powers – they can actually see. The tyrannical queen is not to happy about this and sends her forces to get their hands on the sighted siblings, forcing Voss to rally his tribe to protect the children and take down the queen. Facile messiah plot and blind-leading-the-blind metaphors aside, this sounds like a good, tribal fun.
Dickinson, from November 1st
How do you portray the life of one of America's most celebrated 19th-century poets, who lived a reclusive life in puritan New England and practically patented the art of the lovesick verse? Simple: recast her as a sassy feminist icon who challenges the mores of her time, and cracks a few killer gags along the way. Hailee Steinfeld plays the titular poet, out of time and out of step with her society, in this new comedy series that promises to be a little more high-minded than Upstart Crow.
For All Mankind, from November 1st
What if Russia had become the first country to put a man on the moon? Neil Armstrong would have had to rewrite his famous "one small step…" quote, for a start. This series posits an alternative reality in which the US actually loses the space race, and Nasa is forced to rethink its entire space programme. It comes up with a fiendishly simple plan to get back in the game: put the first woman on the moon. But Nasa has no women astronauts, so it has to find some new female recruits and train them fast for their moon mission before the Russians get there first.
Since the series is about women astronauts, the title seems a little alpha male, but I guess Ladies Who Launch would be a bit naff.
Snoopy in Space, from November 1st
America’s best-loved canine (what, it’s not Scooby-Doo?) embarks on his biggest airborne adventure as he takes command of the International Space Station along with the rest of the Peanuts gang, in this series of 12 animated shorts. How can you resist the tagline for this one: “The beagle has landed.”
Ghostwriter, from November 1st
Here’s one for the little Einsteins in your family. A bookstore is haunted by a ghost who sets fictional characters loose in the real world, and it’s up to four kids to solve the mystery of the ghost’s unfinished business. They will be required to crack riddles, decipher secret messages and brush up on their classic literature.
The Elephant Queen, from November 1st
Netflix has The Crown, but Apple TV Plus has the far more regal figure of Athena, the matriarch of a family of African elephants who embark on a perilous odyssey across the Serengeti, pursued by a team of veteran wildlife documentary makers determined to squeeze every ounce of drama and passion from this tale of animal migration. This epic wildlife film is narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Expect some spectacular cinematography and a liberal dash of anthropomorphism.
Little Voice, timing to be announced
Nothing to do with the 1998 movie starring Jane Horrocks and Michael Caine, this is another one for the young 'uns, a musical drama starring a fresh-faced cast of 20-somethings, all on a journey to "find their authentic voice" and make it heard in the cacophony of New York life. Another riff on Fame, by the sound of it. Singer Sara Bareilles is supplying the tunes, and co-producing the series alongside Star Wars wiz JJ Abrams.
Oprah, timing to be announced
Getting Oprah on board is a bit of a coup for Apple TV Plus. She’s one of America’s most beloved celebs, and there’s no reason to think all that love won’t transfer smoothly to streaming TV. The series is a revival of Winfrey’s book club, a popular segment of The Oprah Winfrey Show, which ended in 2011. In the new show, Winfrey meets the authors of her chosen book, but the episodes will arrive every couple of months, to give viewers time to read the featured books. What – with all this streaming TV to get through, who’s got time to read?
Servant, from November 28th
No streaming service is complete without a twisted psychological thriller series, and who better than the master of the creepy twists M Night Shyamalan to keep subscribers guessing? The story revolves around a young couple in Philadelphia, their newborn child and the nanny they hire to look after their baby. Is this The Hand that Rocks the Cradle? Guess again.
Truth Be Told, from December 6th
What happens when our obsession with true crime podcasts threatens to destroy innocent lives? No, never wondered that myself, but this series looks at the consequences when a popular podcaster, desperate for more salacious stories to entertain her listeners, loses sight of the truth. Octavia Spencer plays podcast queen Poppy Parnell, who realises she may have helped put the wrong man behind bars.
The Banker, timing to be announced
A sort of BlacKkKlansman for the financial services sector, this film tells the story of America's first African American bankers, and the subterfuge they had to pull off to get a foothold in the business. Samuel L Jackson and Anthony Mackie star as Joe Morris and Bernard Garrett, two black businessmen in the 1960s who train up blue-collar worker Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult) to be the white face of their new banking and real estate venture.
Meanwhile, Morris and Garrett disguise themselves as the janitor and chauffeur while secretly running the operation. Can they keep this charade going without attracting the attention of the feds? I wouldn’t bank on it.