1. On a scale from “they just uploaded the U2 album to my phone” to “it’s so easy to share my Wi-Fi password now,” what is your excitement level for Apple’s latest endeavor?
Ben Lindbergh: In a world without Apple TV+, there would still be more quality TV than I could consume, so I’m less excited than I am preemptively tired. That said, I just skimmed a list of upcoming Apple TV+ projects, and based only on the loglines, I would try about 10 of them, so I’m ready to be buried by the content crush.
Kate Halliwell: I’d say my excitement level is squarely in the middle of those two points—somewhere around “I want a better camera, but not at the cost of sacrificing my headphone jack.”
Andrew Gruttadaro: Let me try to summarize my complicated feelings here: As a person who likes tracking Hollywood as if it’s a sport, I’m excited to see what will happen when Netflix has some actual competition; as a person who loves when studios spend millions of dollars on absolute garbage, I couldn’t be more excited about Jason Momoa’s blind race show, See. But as an everyday human who already feels bombarded by the glut of television (and thus, resorts to watching Love Island or reruns of Always Sunny in search of mindless comfort), the idea of even more TV is horrifying.
Amelia Wedemeyer: I would say I’m at the “I might as well enjoy this free pair of Beats by Dre headphones that I received with my purchase of a new MacBook” level of excited.
Miles Surrey: I’m at wherever “the only reason I’m even watching is because it’s literally required for my job” lands on that scale.
Alyssa Bereznak: “OK, fine, I’ll buy AirPods”—aware of an incoming new Apple product, reasonably skeptical, but doomed to get it anyway.
Kate Knibbs: I care about Apple TV+ about the same amount I care about Animoji. They’re fun, I like them, and if they didn’t exist my life would be exactly the same.
2. What Apple TV+ show are you most looking forward to?
Wedemeyer: I probably won’t watch Apple TV+ unless I get a new iPhone or am given access to someone else’s account, but I’m definitely that person who would binge all of The Morning Show in a weekend.
Bereznak: The Morning Show, mostly to better understand why they’ve cast Jennifer Aniston as the elder lady news anchor. Justice for that woman’s unparalleled skincare routine!
Gruttadaro: As I said, the correct answer is See. Jason Momoa is one of the most underrated “he’s going for it” actors we have, and holy cow is he going for it here, playing a blind man in a dystopian society full of blind people (who wear dope furs). HIS NAME IS BABA VOSS IN IT.
Halliwell: Dickinson! I’ve been on the Hailee Steinfeld train for years, and I’m excited to see how this weird little show plays out.
Surrey: As someone who foams at the mouth when any logline includes the words “in space,” For All Mankind is shaping up to be the (only?) must-see program from the streamer. I’m glad Apple made a show specifically for myself and Michael Baumann.
Lindbergh: For All Mankind, followed by Mythic Quest and a pair of adaptations that once were slated for HBO, Masters of the Air and Foundation. Also, um, Snoopy in Space?
Knibbs: Definitely the one where Emily Dickinson is a fun sexy teen, Dickinson. If I may:
I felt a Party, in my brain,
And friends to and fro
Kept treading - treading - till it seemed
The Service was about to stream
And when they all were seated,
The Service, like a Drum -
Kept beating - beating - till I thought
My mind was going numb -
And then I heard them lift a Box
And turn the Device on
And the words rolled across the stream
”Dickinson” - and me! - a sexy teen!
3. Grade the name “Apple TV+.” Then come up with a better one.
Bereznak: I give it a V+; Apple really missed an opportunity to explore niche apple names beyond Macintosh. Goldspur has a nice ring to it.
Knibbs: An F … for fine, because it doesn’t really matter what Apple calls its streaming service as long as it is Apple’s streaming service. I would’ve gone with something like “iTV,” but what do I know?
Surrey: I’ll give it a D. Why not iWatch?
Halliwell: C-: too confusing and too close to the Apple TV product. What about iTV? Is that anything?
Gruttadaro: C feels fair—adequate but lacking effort and/or creativity. A better name would’ve been Pear; or Plum; or Grapes. What I’m saying is Apple needs to sack up and diversify its fruit portfolio.
Wedemeyer: I think there’s something to be said that both Apple and Disney went with “+”—or maybe adding a plus sign is just what we do now. Regardless, I’m giving it a solid C—it’s average! If I were Tim Cook, I would’ve named it iStream, which would’ve continued Apple’s naming trend. Yes, it’s dumb, but it’s also perfect for Halloween advertising. They really missed the opportunity to go with “I scream for iStream!”
Lindbergh: I give Apple TV+ a C+, although it’s no blander than most of its streaming competitors. Bring back Macintosh TV! Actually, I’ve got it: Streaming network + Apple = Snapple. There it is, that’s the one.
4. Predict the future: Will Apple TV+ end up on the same level as Netflix, or is it doomed to be closer to Facebook Watch?
Lindbergh: I had to Google it to remind myself whether Facebook Watch is something you wear on your wrist, so Apple’s offering almost has to be better than that. Disney+ seems like a better bet to rise to Netflix’s level, but Apple can also afford to lose money for a really long time.
Wedemeyer: Call me crazy, but I honestly think it depends on whether or not people enjoy The Morning Show.
Halliwell: It feels like a Facebook Watch thing to me—I can’t even decide whether I’m even going to shell out for Apple TV+ at all, despite filling out this survey.
Bereznak: After sifting through the entire Apple TV+ YouTube channel, which is impossibly thin, I’m concerned it will be the latter.
Gruttadaro: The sheer size of Netflix—both its catalog and its user base—makes it impossible to ignore. Facebook Watch, on the other hand, has, like, six shows, and the only people who watch them probably do so by accident. Apple TV+ is coming into the game with nine shows of varying consequence and an as-yet-unknowable audience. It’s going to take a while for Apple TV+ to make an imprint, and it may not have a while—Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock are all rapidly approaching.
Surrey: I think Apple’s early stages might be similar to those of Amazon Prime: another streamer from a tech giant that takes longer to get off the ground than expected but eventually finds a respectable base of original programs. Evidently, though, one of those is not going to be The Morning Show.
5. If you got a free trial of Apple TV+ with the purchase of a new iPhone, what are the chances that you would then forget to cancel the subscription? And how much of that scenario do you suspect is part of Apple’s business plan?
Lindbergh: I resent the implication that I would purchase an iPhone.
Halliwell: Extremely high on both counts.
Surrey: If it’s anything like the time I subscribed to Showtime just to watch Twin Peaks: The Return and totally forgot to cancel it for months, Apple’s got an idle customer base just waiting to wonder what’s up with their checking account!
Bereznak: There is a 300 percent chance that I would forget about it. Figuring out how to remove a recurring subscription on my iPhone is like burrowing to the center of the Earth. And it’s entirely of the company’s business plan. Apple built a whole $205.5 billion business off of easy-to-navigate electronics. If it wanted to help me find that shit quicker, it could.
Knibbs: Ever since I went through a very dark phase of my life when it turned out I had forgotten to cancel two separate trials of CBS All Access and had accidentally been paying for two different subscriptions without using them, I am quite diligent about canceling my trials. I’m sure this is getting factored into Apple’s plans, though. The company already makes it so obnoxiously hard to cancel app-based subscriptions.
Wedemeyer: As someone who forgot they were subscribed to Amazon Prime until I received a “Your payment card no longer works” email the other day, I would say the chances are good that I would forget; and yes, I do believe this is a big part of Apple’s business plan.
Gruttadaro: In 2018, Apple sold 217.7 million iPhones. If even 70 percent of the people who bought those remembered to cancel a trial subscription, that’d still leave 65.3 million people who forgot to cancel—and let’s be real, an honest assessment of human nature puts the cancellation rate at more like 50 percent, which would put the subscription number at 108.9 million. Those are pretty good numbers! HBO Max is hoping to hit 50 million subscribers by 2025—Apple might be able to get there just by banking on human forgetfulness and apathy. It’s pretty genius, actually.
6. Who will win the Streaming Wars?
Knibbs: The Office and Friends.
Wedemeyer: Everyone except the consumer.
Bereznak: Mmm, probably the cash-rich tech giant that controls all of our devices.
Gruttadaro: My friends Rob and Lauren, who I keep giving my streaming passwords to. You’re welcome!
Surrey: This seems to imply there’ll be One Streamer to Rule Them All, but it probably comes down to a few companies thriving in their respective corners of the streamer ecosystem. Netflix, Disney, and Amazon are gonna be fine; Apple might do OK after a rough start; nobody will ever know what Quibi is.
Lindbergh: The consumer! Kidding. Screenwriters? Rotten Tomatoes? Torrent sites? Whatever government antitrust team gets to go after Disney when it buys every other streaming service?
Halliwell: TikTok. Just you wait.
7. Is there such a thing as too much TV?
Knibbs: No! But there is certainly such a thing as “too much TV for one person.” That amount varies per person. For me, it means I’ll probably watch the fancy morning news show with Reese and Jen Aniston because it looks good, and I’ll watch Dickinson because it looks like the work of true deviants. Then I’ll go back to re-watching The Sopranos, Mad Men, and The Office over and over again until I die!
Bereznak: We’re already there. My queue is overflowing. Does anyone know how to keep up with all the television? Help me, my family is dying.
Surrey: I thought about coming up with a joke, but then I realized I have at least a dozen screeners to catch up on, so—yes.
Wedemeyer: My head says “yes,” but my heart says “no.”
Lindbergh: I think “too much TV” is more of a problem for TV critics than it is for everyone else. Most people are either unaware of or unbothered by how much TV there is, and for anyone who’s satisfied with sampling the best series instead of trying to stay apprised of all of them, things have never been better. That said, there are a couple of downsides to the content cornucopia: Even for cord-cutters, it’s going to get expensive, and it’s also going to get even harder to find people to talk to about your TV tastes.
Gruttadaro: As Alan Jackson once sang, “Too much of a good thing is a good thing.” This is a man with a signature collection of apparel, home goods, and barbecue sauces at Cracker Barrel—he’s an expert on good things.