Apple is said to be spending as much as $1 billion over the course of 2018 on original TV programming. That’s a lot of TV! It’s not the $8 billion Netflix is going to spend, but it’s still a huge commitment.
What can you get for a billion dollars? Well, some simple math gives us 200 episodes at $5 million a piece (a reasonable per-episode price for high-end TV). But we’re not likely to actually see 10-20 shows with 10-20 episodes each, all costing around that much. For starters, that billion dollars has to cover a lot more than per-episode production costs.
Updated 10/09/18: Apple has announced that the second season of Carpool Karaoke will debut on October 12.
The bulk of Apple’s TV content is likely to be in production throughout 2018, with actual release dates in 2019. We’ll probably see a mix of show types, from reality TV to dramas, and even a few films and miniseries, too. Currently, Apple’s TV efforts are accessed through Apple Music, but that’s not really an optimal experience. We don’t know if the company will simply release content through iTunes, the TV app, or a new channel, but access is likely to be tied to Apple Music subscriptions—at least in the near term.
While most of Apple’s TV projects are shrouded in secrecy, what little we know confirms that Apple is spending big bucks on top-tier talent. The two projects released in 2017 (Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke) were uninspiring, but prospects seem far better for the future.
Here’s a list of all the exclusive TV content we know Apple is working on, along with expected release dates.
Planet of the Apps
It’s like Shark Tank for app developers! Celebrity judges Will.i.am, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, and Gary Vaynerchuk sit through pitches by app developers who go on to try to earn big VC money.
It’s...not great. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Planet of the Apps, really. It’s just sort of boring. Each of the 10 episodes is nearly an hour long, and doesn’t manage to capture much drama about the developers or the challenges they face in bringing their ideas to market. It all moves too slowly, and feels crammed with “celebrity factor” where the developers should really be the stars.
The whole exercise feels like it was made for Apple (because Apple = Apps!) instead of for viewers who want to watch an entertaining show.
Planet of the Apps has 10 episodes in its first season, which premiered on June 6, 2017. No second season has been announced.
Carpool Karaoke: The Series
James Corden has this great bit on The Late Late Show where he hops into a car with celebrities and they sing along with the radio. See? Celebrities do the things we do!
It’s usually a short six- or seven-minute segment that can be quite entertaining. You know, just the right thing to go viral on YouTube (as several segments have done).
What better thing to turn into a TV show that plays only on a music service, right?
Unfortunately, the tight, breezy pace of The Late Late Show segment doesn’t translate well to a series where each episode is about three times as long. Perhaps it only works as a “break” from the in-studio talk show. Perhaps the whole concept is just a bit old and boring. Maybe it’s Corden who makes the magic—he only hosts the first episode and the 19th and final one. For whatever reason, the hit segment simply doesn’t translate into a hit show.
None of this stopped Carpool Karaoke from winning a 2018 Daytime Emmy award for Outstanding Short Form Variety Series.
Apple has announced that season 2 will begin streaming on October 12. The announcement was accompanied by a short video showing some of the guests for the new season. Jon Hamm! Muppets! Snoop Dogg and Matthew McConaughey! Weird Al and The Lonely Island! The formula hasn't changed, so if you were into the first season, well, this is more of that.
William Landay's best-selling legal thriller Defending Jacob is coming to the small screen. Apple has placed a direct-to-series order for the show, which is said to be a limited series (meaning it probably won't extend beyond a single set of 4-10 episodes).
The series will star Chris Evans, best known for his role as Captain America, as the father of a 14-year-old boy who is accused of murder. It is being produced by Paramount Television and Anonymous Content, and will be directed by Morten Tyldum, who was nominated for an Oscar in 2014 for The Imitation Game.
Defending Jacob does not yet have a release date.
This summer, The New York Times Magazine published an epic feature titled, “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change.” At over 30,000 words, it took up an entire issue of the magazine and earned critical acclaim. It focused on how, from 1979 to 1989, a small team of scientists, activists, and politicians tried to stop climate change while there was still time.
The New York Times reports that Apple has acquired the rights to a TV series based on the epic feature article, produced by Anonymous Content. The article's author, Nathaniel Rich, will serve as executive producer together with Anonymous Content founder and CEO Steve Golin.
We don't know the format the show will take, but The New York Times specifically calls it a "series." Based on the source material, it seems like a single-season limited series makes the most sense.
Losing Earth (if that will be the final title) has no release date yet.
The Elephant Queen
Apple has acquired the rights to Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble’s documentary The Elephant Queen. Stone and Deeble embedded themselves for four years together with the family of a giant elephant matriarch named Athena. The film follows their journey as the watering hole that is home to her and her family dries up, and she risks taking her family in search of food and water, though they might not survive the journey. It is narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave, Doctor Strange).
The Elephant Queen does not yet have a release date.
Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon produces this tale about a young hunter who comes to Ireland with her father to wipe out the last pack of evil wolves, but instead befriends a wild native girl who runs with them.
Wolfwalkers does not yet have a release date.
Charlie Day and Rob McElhenney comedy series
Fans of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia will be thrilled to hear that series Rob McElhenney and co-star Charlie Day are teaming up to make a new half-hour scripted comedy series for Apple. This according to a report from Variety.
McElhenney will star in the show as well as write for it, and will be an executive producer alongside Day.
The show is set in a video game development studio; a comedy concept that has been tried numerous times before without much success.
Here’s an interesting wrinkle: The series will be produced by 3 Arts Entertainment and also...Ubisoft? Yes, the mega video game publisher is involved. We might expect that the show, if not set in Ubisoft, will at least feature plenty of Ubisoft game name-dropping and product placement.
This series has no official title yet and no release date.
The best-selling novel “Pachinko” follows four generations of a Korean immigrant family, following the line from Korea to Japan and finally America. The New York Times named it one of the 10 best books of 2017.
According to Variety, Apple has secured the rights to develop Min Jin Lee’s novel into a series. It will be written and directed by Soo Hugh, who was the showrunner for the first season of AMC’s The Terror.
Pachinko does not yet have a release date.
Terry Gilliam’s time-traveling adventure comedy Time Bandits may make its way to the small screen in a two TV series. Deadline reports that Apple is buying up the rights to make a TV show of the cult classic film. The Deadline sources say that it will be co-produced by Anonymous Content, Paramount Television and Media Rights Capital. Terry Gilliam will have an executive producer role, but will not write for the show.
The film, about a young boy who gets caught up with a troupe of thieves as they hop across history to steal treasure, ever on the run from the “supreme being” from whom they’ve stolen their time map, is good fodder for a TV show. But the film has a dedicated cult following who will place high demands on maintaining the film’s heart and quirky sense of British humor.
Time Bandits (if that’s even the show’s name) does not yet have a release date.
Apple has put in a full series order for See, a futuristic drama. The size of the series order is not yet known, but Deadline reports that it will probably consist of eight episodes.
The series is written by Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders, Dirty Pretty Things) and directed by Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2).
So far we don’t know anything about the series, except that it’s supposed to take place in the future and is what they call a “world-building” series, that is, one set in a different reality than our own (think: Westworld, Bright, Game of Thrones...).
Update 7/10/18: Variety reports that Jason Momoa has been cast in the lead role: Baba Voss, “a fearless warrior, leader and guardian.”
Update 07/26/18: A report by Variety says that actress Alfre Woodard (Luke Cage, 12 Years a Slave, Captain America: Civil War) has joined the cast of See. She is to play Paris, described as “an advisor and priestess.”
See does not yet have a release date.
On the French premium cable channel Canal+ you’ll find a new series named Calls. It’s ten-episode arc for the first season consists of ten ten-minute episodes. Each consists of a playback of an audio recording—an airplane black box, a voicemail, a 911 call—that depict some sort of tragedy. They all tie to together to tell the story of some sort of impending apocalypse.
It’s a neat idea, if a somewhat odd format. According to Variety, Apple has now bought the rights to make an English-language version, along with the rights to the first season of the French version. You can see a trailer for the French version below.
Calls has no release date yet.
Children’s programming from Sesame Workshop
No, it’s not Sesame Street, but it might be close. According to Variety, Apple has struck a deal with Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization behind Sesame Street, to produce children’s programming for its streaming service.
Nothing is known yet about the shows, but they very clearly won’t be Sesame Street (which has a multi-season deal with HBO and still airs on PBS). Variety reports that this is a multi-series order, including live action, animation, and a even a new puppet series.
We do not yet know the names, themes, or release dates for any of these series.
Oprah, Apple. Apple, Oprah.
Apple on June 15 announced that it has agreed to a multi-year content deal with Oprah Winfrey. Details in Apple’s press release are scarce, with no details on the types of shows that will be produced. The release does say that, “Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.”
According to various online reports, Winfrey will continue as CEO of OWN, the TV network she started in 2011. The Hollywood Reporter states that the deal includes any content that can be distributed through Apple’s venues, such as books, movies, TV shows, or applications, though podcasts are not included.
Hilde Lysiak drama series
The series will be about a young girl from moves from Brooklyn to a lakeside town, where she gets involved in uncovering a cold case that the community has concealed. Dana Fox and Dara Resnik are the creators and executive producers of the series.
Lysiak runs Orange Street News, which features her writing and local reporting in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. At the age of 9, Lysiak made headlines beyond her neighborhood when she broke news on a murder in her town.
A release date has not been announced.
The hit novel Shantaram has a somewhat tumultuous history in Hollywood. According to Variety, the book was first to be developed as a film, with Johnny Depp having acquired the book rights and Warner Bros. producing with Joel Edgerton in the starring role. Then, the plans were scrapped and the rights auctioned off, with Anonymous Content and Paramount Television winning the rights to Shantaram and its sequel novel The Mountain Shadow.
Now, Variety says, Apple has won the rights to develop the series. Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle, The International) will write and executive produce the series.
Gregory David Roberts’ novel tells the story of Lin, an escaped convict from a maximum security Australian prison. On the run and cut off from friends and family, he disappears into the Bombay underground in India.
Shantaram does not yet have a release date.
J.J. Abrams and Sara Bareilles are executive producers of this half-hour comedy/drama series. Variety reports that Apple has ordered a 10-episode season of the show. Variety says the series is described as a “love letter to the diverse musicality of New York which explores the universal journey of finding your authentic voice in your early 20s.” Bareilles is expected to contribute original music to the show.
Screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam, Corinna, Corinna) will write, direct, and produce the first episode, and act as showrunner for the series. The production companies will be Abrams’ Bad Robot and Warner Bros.
Little Voices does not yet have a release date.
According to Variety, Hailee Steinfeld (Pitch Perfect 2 & 3, True Grit) is set to star in the title role of a new comedy series about the early life of Emily Dickinson. It’s a 19th century coming-of-age story, written by Alena Smith (The Newsroom, The Affair). It has been reported that the series will feature half-hour episodes, though we don’t know how many episodes will comprise the single season ordered by Apple. Variety says the show is described as, “a comedic look into Dickinson’s world, exploring the constraints of society, gender, and family from the perspective of a budding writer who doesn’t fit in to her own time through her imaginative point of view.”
Update 08/30/18: Variety reports that Jane Krakowski (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, 30 Rock) has joined the cast as the mother of Emily Dickinson (played by Hailee Steinfeld).
Dickenson does not yet have a release date.
Of all Isaac Asimov’s famous science fiction work, none is as sprawling, weighty, or influential as the Foundation series. The original book trilogy (part of which was originally published as a short story series in sci-fi magazine Astounding) was published in the 1950s, and has served as influential fodder for a lot of the science fiction that followed.
Last year, Skydance Television landed the rights to make a TV series adaptation of Foundation from the Asimov estate. David S. Goyer (who has writing credits on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight) and Josh Friedman (who is working with James Cameron on his Avatar sequel and a Terminator reboot) will serve as executive producers and showrunners.
According to a scoop from Deadline, Apple landed a straight-to-series deal for the show, but we don’t know much more about it yet.
Foundation does not yet have a release date.
According to a report from Deadline, Apple has signed a two-season, 26-episode order for a new animated music comedy called Central Park. The show is produced by 20th Century Fox TV, and is the brainchild of Loren Bouchard (creator of Bob’s Burgers), Nora Smith (Bob’s Burgers executive producer) and Josh Gad (who voices Olaf in Frozen).
The show stars some top-tier voice talent, including Josh Gad, Kristen Bell, Titus Burgess, Stanley Tucci, Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs, and Kathryn Hahn. The story, according to Deadline, is about how, “a family of caretakers, who live and work in Central Park, end up saving the park, and basically the world.”
Central Park has no projected release date yet.
M. Night Shyamalan thriller series
According to Variety, Apple has ordered a straight-to-series run of a psychological thriller produced by M. Night Shyamalan, the director known for writing and directing Unbreakable and a bunch of lesser movies.
We don’t know anything about the series yet, except that Apple has ordered ten half-hour episodes, and that Shyamalan will direct the first one but apparently, perhaps mercifully, none of the others. The series will be written by Tony Basgallop.
This series does not yet have a release date.
Swagger: a drama series based on Kevin Durant
According to Variety, Apple is developing a drama series based on the early life and career of NBA superstar Kevin Durant. Inspired by Durant’s youth basketball experiences, Variety says “it will explore the world of Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball and the lives of the players, their families, and coaches.”
The series will be produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Television along with Durant’s Thirty Five Media. It will be written and directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood, best known for the TV series Shots Fired and for writing the Notorious B.I.G. biopic Notorious.
We should note that Durant currently plays for the Golden State Warriors, of which Apple VP Eddy Cue is a huge superfan.
Swagger does not yet have a projected release date.
One of the first new television projects revealed to be in the works at Apple is revival of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories.
The original Amazing Stories ran for only two seasons in the ‘80s, yet was nominated for a dozen Emmys (winning five).
Apple has struck a deal with Amblin Television to produce a 10-episode run, with Bryan Fuller as showrunner and a rumored budget of about $5 million per half-hour episode.
Bryan Fuller, the writer-producer of Dead Like Me, Heroes, Pushing Daisies, Hannibal, American Gods, and Star Trek: Discovery, is getting a beefy budget to revive one of the most beloved and awarded (if short-lived) shows of all time. We can’t wait!
Update 02/07/18: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Bryan Fuller has left the project, citing creative differences. Hart Hanson, who was co-producing it with Fuller and Spielberg, will take on a larger role in the show.
Update 05/22/18: Variety reports that the co-creators of One Upon a Time, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, have signed on as the new executive producers of Amazing Stories.
Amazing Stories has no release date yet.
Are You Sleeping
Apple has tapped Reese Witherspoon’s production company Hello Sunshine to adapt the true crime best-selling book Are You Sleeping: A Novel by Kathleen Barber.
We don’t know a lot about it, except that the adaptation for TV is written by Nichelle D. Tramble (The Good Wife, Justified) and will star the excellent Octavia Spencer, who won an Oscar for The Help and was nominated for another for Hidden Figures.
The story is about a hit podcast (think: Serial) that reopens a long-closed murder case in the public eye, and unravels the life of our protagonist, Josie, who had finally put her troubled old life behind her.
Are You Sleeping has been picked up for a full 10-episode season.
Update 06/13/18: Variety reports that the show has added Michael Beach, Ron Cephas Jones, Aaron Paul, Elizabeth Perkins, Mekhi Phifer, Tracie Thoms, and Haneefah Wood to the cast.
Are You Sleeping has no release date yet.
Fresh off their big indie hit The Big Sick, husband-and-wife team Kumail Nanjiani and Emily v. Gordon will co-write and executive produce a new half-hour anthology series about immigrants called Little America. They will share writing duties with Lee Eisenberg, who will serve as showrunner. Alan Yang, known as the co-creator of Master of None together with Aziz Ansari, will also executive produce the show.
It will be based on the true stories printed in Epic Magazine’s Little America series. Deadline says the show will “go beyond the headlines to look at the funny, romantic, heartfelt, inspiring and unexpected lives of immigrants in America, at a time when their stories are more relevant than ever.”
Reese Witherspoon & Jennifer Aniston morning show drama
Is Apple going to air a morning talk show? Not quite.
This new series (also produced by Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine production company) is not a morning news show. Instead, it’s a drama about making a morning TV news show. It supposedly draws heavily from the book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV by Brian Stelter.
It’s easy to imagine that what Sports Night was for SportsCenter, this show would be for the Today Show.
So far we don’t really know anything about it or when it will air, except that Apple has ordered two seasons of 10 hour-long episodes each. The writer and executive producer is Jay Carson, who served as a producer on House of Cards.
The show doesn’t have a title yet (that we know of), and has no release date.
Ronald D. Moore sci-fi series
In December, Deadline published an exclusive with a few juicy details of yet another Apple TV series. Written and created by Ronald D. Moore (best known for Battlestar Galactica), and co-executive produced by Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi (Fargo) the series explores what would happen if the global space race had never ended.
We don’t yet know the series’ title (it may not have one yet!), nor when it will be released, but it seems early in production—there’s no talk of directors or stars yet attached. Given that this is the kind of show bound to have plenty of post-production special effects, I wouldn’t expect to see it until 2019.
Deadline reports that Joel Kinnaman, Michael Dorman, and Sarah Jones have all been cast in the series. Kinnaman is known for staring in the Netflix series Altered Carbon and the film Suicide Squad. Dorman stars in the Amazon series Patriot. Jones will play a role in the CBS series L.A. Confidential and starred in the Fox series Alcatraz.
It looks like Apple wants to cash in on the “look at the fancy homes of fancy people” TV craze, with its own unique twist. According to Variety, Apple has ordered one full season of 10 hour-long episodes of a new show titled Home.
It’s billed as a documentary series, and is being produced by veteran documentary writer-producer duo Matt Tyrnauer and Corey Reeser, along with several veteran producers from Time Inc. Productions. It is said to “offer viewers a never-before-seen look inside the world’s most extraordinary homes, and delves into the minds of the people who built them.”
So it sounds like it will be more about design and technology than Million Dollar Listing or MTV Cribs. All the better to sell you nifty HomeKit stuff, right?
Home has no release date yet.
You Think It, I’ll Say It
SNL alum Kristen Wiig is set to star in her first regular TV gig since leaving SNL in 2012. According to Variety, Apple has ordered a 10-episode, half-hour run of a new comedy variety show staring Wiig.
The show is created and produced by Colleen McGuinness (30 Rock, About a Boy) and is inspired by Curtis Sittenfeld’s collection of short stories You Think It, I’ll Say It (which isn’t even out yet).
This is the third Apple series to be produced by Reese Witherspoon’s production company Hello Sunshine.
Update 06/20/18: Deadline reports that Kristen Wiig has pulled out of this project, citing scheduling conflicts with Wonder Woman 1984 (she plays the villain Cheetah in the film). The publication’s sources say that the series hasn’t been cancelled yet, and “producers are regrouping” to try to continue with the project.
This project does not yet have a title or release date.
Damien Chazelle drama series
According to Variety, Apple has gone straight-to-series (ordered a whole season of a series without first shooting a pilot) on a drama by Damien Chazelle. Chazelle is the acclaimed writer and director of La La Land and Whiplash, and is currently working on a Neil Armstrong biopic called First Man.
No details have been given about the series at all, except that Chazelle will write and direct every episode. We don’t know the subject matter, the stars, the length of each episode...really nothing at all.
There is no release date set for this series, but considering that Chazelle is currently in production on First Man (set to release in theaters on October 12, 2018), it’s probably a long ways out.
Waaay back in early 2016, word dropped about Apple’s first homegrown TV series.
Called Vital Signs and produced by Dr. Dre, it is said to be a six-episode miniseries where each episode focuses on a specific emotion (Vengence, Ego, Negativity, Innocence...). It’s also a semi-autobiographical tale of Dre’s life.
This was before Apple was dedicated to spending really big bucks on its own exclusive video offerings, and thus the series was originally conceived as a way to help promote Apple Music and drive subscriptions.
In the spring of 2017, star Ian McShane (Deadwood, John Wick), who plays Vengeance, said the series was going to release in August. Well, it’s now way past August and we haven’t heard or seen a thing about it. Not a trailer, release date, promotional art...nothing!
Either the miniseries is in big trouble and has to be drastically re-worked, or it’s just so good that Apple’s saving it for a big launch of its original TV programs or perhaps a new streaming video service. By all accounts, filming appears to have been wrapped up for a long time.
Canceled: Elvis Biopic
One Apple series we know is definitely not going to see the light of day is an Elvis Presley biography series. Rumor has it that, if successful, subsequent series would have focused on other pop stars like Michael Jackson.
It was in very early development at The Weinstein Company when the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. With no cast or crew signed up yet, it was a no-brainer for Apple to pull the plug.