“Everything We Know about … ” is Paste’s series of deep dives into the forthcoming projects we’re most excited about. Explore them all here.
Apple has recruited some of the biggest names in Hollywood to create original programming, and it looks like it’s building a subscription service to rival the likes of Amazon’s Prime Video. Here’s everything we know so far about the tech giant’s ambitious push into the streaming TV market.
Apple has only put out two original shows to date—the tech startup reality competition series Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke: The Series—both of which premiered on Apple Music in 2017. The latter show was supposed to mark Apple Music’s first series, but its premiere was delayed, reportedly after Apple CEO Tim Cook asked to cut out “foul language and references to vaginal hygiene,” per Bloomberg. Carpool Karaoke was renewed for a second season, which premiered this October on Apple Music, while there is no news of a renewal for Planet of the Apps.
In June 2017, Apple announced that it had hired Sony Pictures Television chiefs Jamie Erlicht and Zach van Amburg to lead video programming for its worldwide video division. During the duo’s tenure at Sony Pictures TV, they have spearheaded a number of hits for various networks and platforms, including AMC’s Breaking Bad, NBC’s The Blacklist and Netflix’s The Crown.
“Jamie and Zack are two of the most talented TV executives in the world and have been instrumental in making this the golden age of television,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, in a statement at the time. “We have exciting plans in store for customers and can’t wait for them to bring their expertise to Apple—there is much more to come.”
In August 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple had set an eye-popping $1 billion budget to procure and produce original content in the following year.
In March 2018, producers and entertainment executives revealed to the New York Times that Apple was looking for programming “in keeping with its bright, optimistic brand identity,” which raises the possibility that the company “will shy away from projects that are gratuitously dark or heavy on social issues” for its forthcoming TV slate. Those sources also revealed that the company is targeting a March 2019 launch date to start rolling out its slate of original programming.
In September, it was also reported that Tim Cook personally rejected Vital Signs, an already-filmed, semi-autobiographical series based on the life of Apple’s Beats founder Dr. Dre. Cook reportedly objected to the violence on display, in addition to content including cocaine use, guns and an orgy, per The Wall Street Journal.
According to the reports, Apple also: passed on a #MeToo-inspired, college comedy series featuring Whitney Cummings and producer Lee Daniels; toned down jokes on the untitled Reese Witherspoon-Jennifer Aniston untitled morning news drama series; and requested that M. Night Shyamalan remove crucifixes from characters’ homes on his as-yet untitled psychological thriller show, which has received a straight-to-series order.
Apple’s upstart streamer, powered by the aforementioned $1 billion budget, is competing with well-established players like HBO, which spent $2 billion on original content in 2017, and Netflix, which spent $6 billion that year. Netflix reportedly raised its content budget to $8 billion in 2018, with 85 percent of that budget going to Netflix originals.
While Apple is set to enter the already-competitive streaming market in the first half of 2019, the tech giant also faces a potential game-changer in Disney+, which is set to launch later that year. It’s still unclear how much Disney is spending on the service, although one of its flagship shows, the live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian, reportedly cost $100 million for 10 episodes, per the New York Times.
Disney CEO Bob Iger has called the company’s forthcoming service “the biggest priority of the company during calendar [year] 2019,” while Apple CEO Tim Cook has kept relatively mum about the company’s forthcoming original programming. While Cook has reportedly weighed in several times on the content of forthcoming shows, it seems that original programming will be more a supplement to its main priority, which remains its highly lucrative devices.
For the most part, it seems that the company will rather take its cues from rival Amazon in terms of its rollout strategy for original programming.
The two are obviously major rivals in the tech sphere, but in September 2017, it was reported that Apple had entered the fray with Amazon Studios, vying for the rights to distribute the 25th James Bond film alongside MGM. Universal ultimately won that battle in May, when, as Deadline reported, the studio picked up international distribution on that film.
Still, it looks as though Apple is looking to replicate Amazon’s success in original content. Amazon recently landed an A-lister in Julia Roberts to star in the acclaimed series Homecoming, and is also developing J.R.R. Tolkien’s blockbuster The Lord of the Rings series for television.
In June, sources familiar with the company’s plans told The Information that Apple was eyeing a bundle encompassing its original TV shows, music service and magazine articles. This strategy would make sense, considering how the first two Apple series premiered on Apple Music, and would be similar to Amazon’s strategy of bundling original programming with its Prime service.
Reports followed in October revealing how the original programing would fit into Apple’s larger TV strategy. Apple is preparing a new digital video service combining Apple-owned content and subscription services from legacy media companies, as people familiar with the matter told CNBC. For owners of Apple devices, including the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, this Apple-owned content will be free on the pre-installed TV app, which will also offer the option for users to pay for additional add-on channels like HBO or Starz.
Unlike Amazon, however, Apple is planning to launch its TV subscription service globally, as The Information reported later that month. While Amazon Prime is available globally, Amazon’s Prime Video Channels, which most closely resembles the model of Apple’s planned service, is currently only available in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Japan.
In October 2017, Deadline that Apple had scrapped an Elvis Presley biopic series based on Dave Marsh’s book Elvis, which had been set up for Apple Music. The series would have been produced by The Weinstein Co.’s TV division, but was terminated following The New York Times publishing its exposé on allegations of sexual harassment levied against co-founder Harvey Weinstein. The plan was to turn the biopic into an anthology franchise, with future seasons featuring other pop music legends like Prince and Michael Jackson.
As mentioned above, in September, Tim Cook reportedly passed on Vital Signs, an already-filmed, semi-biographical series about Beats founder Dr. Dre, after seeing content including drugs, gun use and an orgy. Around that time, Apple also passed on a pitch for a college comedy series inspired by the #MeToo movement, starring Whitney Cummings and produced by Lee Daniels. That project is in works at Amazon as of Oct. 2, per Deadline.
These are the projects we know about so far from Apple’s forthcoming TV slate:
In October 2017, it was announced that Apple was rebooting the ‘80s NBC series Amazing Stories with Steven Spielberg and showrunner Bryan Fuller. Amblin, Apple and Universal have made a 10-episode order for Amazing Stories, which is produced by Amblin and Universal TV. Original series co-creator Spielberg will serve as executive producer via Amblin Television, along with Amblin’s Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank.
Fuller stepped down as showrunner, as did Hart Hanson as executive producer, with Fuller citing “creative differences” in February of this year. In May, Fuller was replaced in the showrunner role by Once Upon a Time co-creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, per Variety. The report on Horowitz and Kitsis’ hiring expands on the “creative differences” that led Fuller to depart the project, adding that he left because his vision for the show did not work with the more family-friendly approach sought by Apple and Amblin Television.
Untitled Reese Witherspoon-Jennifer Aniston-Steve Carell Morning Show Comedy:
The first drama series to be ordered at Apple, the as-yet untitled series received a two-season order in November 2017, with 10 episodes per season, per Deadline. Based on an idea from former HBO drama head Michael Ellenberg, this series will draw background material from CNN correspondent Brian Stelter’s 2013 book Top of the Morning, which recounts the ratings battle between rival morning shows Today and Good Morning America.
Witherspoon and Aniston will star in the series, which marks Aniston’s first as a series regular since NBC’s Friends ended in 2004. The series hails from Ellenberg’s Media Res studio, and is executive produced by Ellenberg; Aniston and Kristin Hahn through Echo Films; and Witherspoon and Lauren Levy Neustadter through Hello Sunshine. Bates Motel exec producer Kerry Ehrin will serve as showrunner, replacing The Front Runner writer Jay Carson.
Steve Carell joined the cast in October 2018, and will play male lead Mitch Kessler, a morning show anchor struggling to keep his relevance in a changing media landscape. The role marks Carell’s first as a series regular since his star-making turn in NBC’s The Office.
The day after Carell’s casting was announced, Billy Crudup and Gugu Mbatha-Raw also joined the cast, per Deadline. Crudup will play Cory Ellison, “the forward-thinking president of the news division at the network,” while Mbatha-Raw plays Hannah Shoenfeld, “the whip-smart and charming head booker of talent.”
The following day, Deadline also reported that Nestor Carbonell and Mark Duplass were set as series regulars on the series. Carbonell will play Yanko Flores, “the charming weatherman who has an artist’s soul and thinks meteorology is poetry,” while Duplass plays Chip Black, the morning show’s executive producer.
Are You Sleeping
In January, it was reported that Apple had given a series order to the true-crime thriller/drama Are You Sleeping, based on the Kathleen Barber bestseller of the same name, starring Octavia Spencer in a lead role and produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine. This is the second Witherspoon-produced project to receive a series order at Apple, following the untitled morning news drama in which she stars opposite Jennifer Aniston.
Serial creator and host Sarah Koenig will consult on the series, which, along with Witherspoon and Spencer, is produced by Peter Chernin’s Chernin Entertainment and Endeavor Content.
Spencer will play investigative reporter Poppy Parnell, whose true-crime podcast reignites interest in a decades-old murder case.
In June, Masters of Sex star Lizzy Caplan was cast in a dual role as twin sisters, daughters of the man whose unsolved murder is at the center of Poppy’s podcast. Later that month, Aaron Paul, Elizabeth Perkins, Mekhi Phifer and Ron Cephas Jones joined the cast. Paul will co-star as Warren Cave, the man convicted of the murder. Perkins will play Cave’s mother, who is the subject of Poppy’s podcast. Jones (This Is Us) will play Poppy’s father, while Phifer (E.R.) will play her longtime friend and a former detective. Tracie Thoms (Rent) and Haneefah Wood (Baskets) will play Poppy’s two sisters.
In June, Apple gave a straight-to-series order to an English-language adaptation of French short-form series Calls, and also acquired the rights for the first season of the original, which airs on Canal+, as per Variety. The forthcoming English-language series will be a co-production with Canal+. Created by Timothée Hochet, the original Calls tells short stories using real-life audio sources and minimal visuals.
In March, Apple picked up animated musical comedy Central Park with a two-season, 26-episode order, per Deadline. The first animated series to get an order at Apple, Central Park tells the story of how a family of caretakers who live and work in Central Park, end up saving the park, and basically the world.
Central Park is produced by 20th Century Fox TV, and comes from Bob’s Burgers creator/executive producer Loren Bouchard, who co-wrote with fellow Bob’s Burgers executive producer Nora Smith and actor-writer Josh Gad. The show’s voice cast includes Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Titus Burgess, Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci, Daveed Diggs and Kathryn Hahn.
Untitled Damien Chazelle Drama Series
In January, Apple gave a straight-to-series order to a drama series from Damien Chazelle, who will write and direct every episode. Chazelle is also headed to Netflix with The Eddy, a musical drama set in multi-cultural, contemporary Paris.
Little is known about Chazelle’s forthcoming Apple series besides that he will write and direct every episode, and that it will be executive produced by his La La Land partners Jordan Horowitz and Fred Berger.
Untitled Charlie Day-Rob McElhenney Comedy
In August, Variety reported that Apple had given a straight-to-series order to a half-hour scripted comedy from Charlie Day and Rob McElhenney. The as-yet untitled series is set in a videogame development studio, and McElhenney is attached to star in addition to writing and executive producing alongside Day. The series marks the duo’s first collaboration as writers since It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which they co-created, as well as both starring in and executive producing.
The series will be produced by Lionsgate-3 Arts Entertainment along with videogame publisher Ubisoft. Michael Rotenberg and Nicholas Frenkel will executive produce on behalf of 3 Arts, along with Gérard Guillemot, Jason Altman and Danielle Kreinik of Ubisoft.
Chris Evans will make his TV return as star and executive producer of Apple’s Defending Jacob, based on the bestselling 2012 William Landay novel.
Defending Jacob is a character-driven crime drama following Andy Barber (Evans), an assistant district attorney investigating the killing of a 14-year-old boy who learns his teenage son is a suspect. This is Evans’ first series regular role since Fox’s Opposite Sex, which ran for one season in 2000.
Defending Jacob received an eight-episode, straight-to-series order from Apple. Planet of the Apes trilogy writer Mark Bomback will write, executive produce and serve as showrunner. The show comes from Paramount Television and Anonymous Content, with Rosalie Swedlin and Adam Shulman executive producing for Anonymous Content, while Oscar-nominated The Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum will executive produce and direct.
In May, it was reported that Hailee Steinfeld had been cast as Emily Dickinson in Dickinson, a forthcoming coming-of-age comedy series about the 19th-century poet, which Apple had just ordered to series. The series will explore the limits placed on her by the expectations of her family and society as a young woman who doesn’t quite fit in with her times. And while set in the 1800s, Dickinson will have a modern comedic tone. Alena Smith (The Affair) will write Dickinson, while David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) will executive produce and direct.
Jane Krakowski joined the cast in August, per Variety. She will play Mrs. Dickinson, Emily’s mother.
In April, Apple landed a straight-to-series deal for Skydance Television’s Foundation, based on the towering sci-fi trilogy by Isaac Asimov. David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman will serve as showrunners, and will also executive produce with Skydance’s David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross.
Fox, Warner Bros. and Sony have previously made attempts at film adaptations, and HBO even attempted a series from Westworld creator Jonathan Nolan, although it was never officially ordered.
Untitled Hilde Lysiak Mystery Series
In June, Apple gave a 10-episode, straight-to-series order to a mystery drama inspired the real-life story of preteen journalist Hilde Lysiak, per Deadline. Lysiak, then nine, broke the news of a murder in her hometown of Selinsgrove, Pa., on Orange Street News, a newspaper she started by herself.
Crazy Rich Asians
director Jon M. Chu will helm and executive produce. The project comes from Anonymous Content and Paramount Television, and was created by Ben and Kate creator Dana Fox and Dara Resnik, who executive produced with Joy Gorman Wettels (13 Reasons Why) and Sharlene Martin.
In August, Deadline reported that The Florida Project breakout Brooklynn Prince had been cast as the lead of the forthcoming series. Jim Sturgess joined the cast in October, also per Deadline, and is playing her father.
The series came with this synopsis from Deadline:
Also described as a family drama, it follows a young girl (Prince) who moves from Brooklyn to the small lakeside town her father (Sturgess) left behind. While there, her dogged pursuit of the truth leads her to unearth a cold case that everyone in town, including her own father, tried hard to bury.
In November, Adrian Hough (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Joelle Carter (Chicago Justice), Jibrail Nantambu (Halloween) and Deric McCabe (A Wrinkle In Time) joined the cast as series regulars, per Deadline. Hough will play Jack Fife, the town mayor. Carter is Kim Collins, a school principal, while Nantambu and McCabe play Donny and Spoon, respectively, Hilde’s new friends.
Apple gave a 10-episode, hour-long series order to Home in January, per Variety. The series offers “viewers a never-before-seen look inside the world’s most extraordinary homes, and delves into the minds of the people who built them.”
Matt Tyrnauer is directing, and will also executive produce with Corey Reeser of Altimeter Films, Matthew Weaver, Ian Orefice and Bruce Gersh from Time Inc. Productions and Joe Poulin, CEO of Luxury Retreats.
The Big Sick writers and real-life couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon were set in February to co-write and executive produce the half-hour anthology series Little America, per Deadline.
SMILF executive producer Lee Eisenberg will join Nanjiani and Gordon as writer, and will also serve as showrunner on the series, which is based on true stories featured in the column of the same name in Epic Magazine. Master of None co-creator Alan Yang will also executive produce.
In June, it was reported that J.J. Abrams and Sara Bareilles were teaming up to co-executive produce Little Voices for Apple. Apple picked up the “musical dramedy” series for a 10-episode first season, which is set to explore the process of finding your voice in your early 20s. The half-hour series has also been described as “a love letter to the diverse musicality of New York.” Bareilles will provide original music for the series.
The first episode will be written and directed by Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam), who will also serve as showrunner. Nelson wrote the book for the Broadway musical adaptation of Waitress, for which Bareilles wrote music and lyrics.
In August, the New York Times reported that Apple had acquired the rights to a series based on “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change,” an epic, 30,000 word feature about the ill-fated fight to reverse climate change published in The N.Y. Times Magazine. The piece follows how, from 1979 to 1989, a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians tried to save the world from the ravages of climate change before it was too late.
The series is produced by Anonymous Content, and the piece’s author, Nathaniel Rich, will executive produce alongside Anonymous Content founder and CEO Steve Golin. It’s unclear what format the project will take, although the Times’ piece on Apple acquiring the rights refers to a “series.”
Untitled Ronald D. Moore Space Drama Series
In the first series order made by Sony TV heads Van Amburg and Erlicht, in December 2017, Apple ordered an as-yet untitled space drama series from Ronald D. Moore, per Deadline. More has developed both Sci-Fi’s Battlestar Galactica reboot and Starz’s Outlander to series. The as-yet untitled series explores what would have happened if the space race had never ended, and is created and written by Moore, along with Fargo co-executive producers Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi.
In August, Deadline also reported that Altered Carbon star Joel Kinnaman, Patriot star Michael Dorman and Damnation co-star Sarah Jones had joined the cast in unknown roles.
In August, Apple acquired the rights to a series based on the Min Jin Lee’s bestselling 2017 novel Pachinko, per THR. Pachinko follows four generations of a Korean immigrant family, starting with a forbidden romance and leading into a saga that sweeps through Korea, Japan and the United States. The series will be told in three languages: Korean, Japanese and English.
Soo Hugh will write, executive produce, and serve as showrunner on the series, which original author Lee will also executive produce. Michael Ellenberg’s Media Res, which also set up the Reese Witherspoon-Jennifer Aniston morning show drama at Apple, will produce.
Apple gave a series order to the futuristic drama See in January, per Deadline. The project is written by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight and is directed by Red Sparrow and The Hunger Games franchise’s Francis Lawrence. There are still few plot details on the series, besides that it is an epic, world-building drama set in the future.
Jason Momoa was cast as the lead of See in July, per Variety. He will play Baba Voss, “a fearless warrior, leader and guardian.” Later that month, Variety also reported that Alfre Woodard had joined the cast, and will appear as Paris, who is described as an advisor and priestess.
In June, Apple acquired the rights to develop Gregory David Robert’s 2003 novel Shantaram as a drama series, per Variety novel follows the story of Lin, an escaped Australian convict looking to get lost in the city of Bombay.
Now that Apple has acquired the rights, American Hustle writer Eric Warren Singer will write and executive produce the series. Johnny Depp most recently acquired the book rights for a film adaptation, which Warner Bros. was to produce with Joel Edgerton in the starring role.
Untitled M. Night Shyamalan Psychological Thriller Series
In February, Apple ordered a 10-episode psychological thriller series from director and executive producer M. Night Shyamalan. Plot details are still being kept under wraps, but we know that the series will come from writer Tony Basgallop (24: Legacy), with Shyamalan directing the first episode and producing through his Blinding Edge Pictures.
In August, Deadline reported that Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) and Nell Tiger Free (Game of Thrones) had been cast as the show’s leads. While plot details were still being kept under wraps, according to Deadline, the series follows parents Dorothy and Sean Turner, who have hired young nanny Leanne Grayson to help care for their newborn child. Ambrose will play the mother, Dorothy, while Free plays the nanny, Leanne.
In February, Variety reported that Apple is developing Swagger, a drama series based on the early life and career of NBA star Kevin Durant. Inspired by Durant’s youth basketball experiences, the series will explore the world of Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball, and the lives of players, their families, and coaches.
The series will be written and directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood (Notorious). Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Television will produce along with Durant’s Thirty Five Media, and Grazer and Durant will also executive produce, alongside Imagine’s Francie Calfo and Thirty Five Media’s Rich Kleiman.
In July, Apple acquired the rights to a series based on director Terry Gilliam’s 1981 fantasy film Time Bandits, per Deadline. The series is being developed as a co-production between Anonymous Content, Paramount Television and Media Rights Capital, with Gilliam as a non-writing executive producer alongside Anonymous Content and MRC.
Time Bandits follows 11-year-old history buff Kevin, who is greeted one night by six dwarves who are former employees of the Supreme Being, and who’ve obtained a map charting how to steal treasures from different historical eras.
You Think It, I’ll Say It
In January, Apple gave 10-episode, half-hour series order, its first for a half-hour scripted comedy, to You Think It, I’ll Say It. Based on Curtis Sittenfeld’s short story collection, the series is produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine with Kristen Wiig attached to star, per Variety. Colleen McGuinness created the series, on which he also serves as showrunner and executive producer. Witherspoon will executive produce via her Hello Sunshine banner along with Lauren Neustadter and Wiig, while original author Sittenfeld will serve as consulting producer.
In June, Wiig left the project’s cast. This would have marked her first TV role since leaving Saturday Night Live in 2012. The project has not been canceled due to Wiig’s exit, although it has yet to be announced who will replace her in the role.
In June, Apple signed a multi-year content partnership with Oprah Winfrey. The deal is not exclusive, and will allow Winfrey to retain her roles as chairman and CEO of her cable network OWN, which airs the acclaimed Queen Sugar, among other shows. The deal is expected to generate a wide range of new content, including film and TV to books and apps.
“Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world,” reads the company’s statement on their partnership.
Later that month, Apple teamed up with Sesame Workshop on a multi-series order for a new slate of children’s programming, per Deadline. This marked the first children’s programming deal for Sony Pictures Television chiefs Jamie Erlicht and Zach van Amburg, who are running Apple’s worldwide video division. The deal does not include Sesame Workshop’s flagship show, Sesame Street, which has its own deal at HBO, and also airs on PBS.
Based on a March 2018 New York Times report, Apple is hoping to launch its original content sometime between March and summer of 2019. As on now, there are no official premiere dates for any of the projects detailed above.
Apple unveiled its streaming service, Apple TV+, in a high-profile presentation at Apple HQ in Cupertino, Calif., on Monday, March 25. Find Paste TV Editor Matt Brennan’s write-up on the announcement here.
Watch this space for further updates on Apple’s TV plans.