Nothing but sax and violins on TV: Apple’s upcoming programming

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News continues to trickle out on Apple’s entertainment ambitions. As with all things Apple, it’s always good to get in a note saying how badly it’s going to suck before it ships.

Writing for TechCrunch, Jonathan Schieber says “It sounds like Apple’s original content is going to be really, really bad.” (Tip o’ the antlers to Philip.)

A new Wall Street Journal article highlights some of the tensions that Apple faces as it looks to create a streaming media service in the age of Handmaid’s Tale, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Game of Thrones, and even The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

What is it that makes these shows good shows? Let’s find out.

Reportedly, after Cook saw scenes [from Vital Signs, a show loosely based on the life of Dr. Dre,] including a mansion orgy, white lines, and drawn guns the Apple chief put the kibosh on the whole production saying it was too violent and not something that Apple can air.

Turns out what makes a good show according to Shieber is orgies, drug use and violence. Well, they certainly make for a good Saturday night, but do you have to have those to make a good show?

One does wonder what Cook expected in green-lighting Vital Signs in the first place. Based on the source material, it wasn’t exactly going to be Caillou.

For Apple’s content business, gratuitous profanity, sex or violence are all verboten as the company tries to thread the needle between being a widely beloved producer of high quality consumer goods and purveyor of paid entertainment to a public that’s increasingly enthralled with blood and gore at its circuses.

Is that what people are enthralled with? Or is it the good storytelling that’s present in most of these shows. Surprise, but people also like The Good Place, Queer Eye and Doctor Who. They’re forking good shows without being gratuitous. Personally, The Macalope loves Detectorists, which is about as violent and sex-filled as spending an afternoon watching Bob Ross with Fred Rogers.

There’s a problem for Apple as it tries to stitch together a studio while limiting itself to the entertainment equivalent of cream of wheat.

It shouldn’t have to be said, but sex, drugs and violence do not make a show instantly great.

Cream of wheat is gross, though. What, is the cream of wheat motto “Eat like your grandparents did in the Depression!”?

Creators may find that they’re far more comfortable wrapped in a quilt that has more varied programming where their shows may be buoyed by the success of other, darker programming that appeals to a broader audience.

How is a broader audience one that doesn’t include children? The Macalope would like to see the math behind that statement. Have you ever seen a spreadsheet that looked like an Escher painting?

If Apple’s aversion to potentially scandalous storylines is as extreme as The Wall Street Journal article makes it seem … it may not even be able to field series as enjoyable as reported Cook favorite Friday Night Lights (which featured teenage sex, underage drinking, abortion, and extreme religiosity alongside the familial and football foibles of Eric and Tammy Taylor).

What did The Wall Street Journal actually say?

…Apple has made clear, say producers and agents that it wants high-quality shows with stars and broad appeal, but it doesn’t want gratuitous sex, profanity or violence.

There’s a difference between gratuitous sex, profanity and violence and any sex, profanity and violence. Trust The Macalope on this, he’s actually engaged in at least two of those things.

Three if you count messily eating alfalfa as violence.

The Journal also noted:

…graphic content certainly isn’t the only path to success in TV and streaming. There’s little or none in some of Netflix’s hits, such as “Stranger Things,” and in some popular broadcast-TV shows such as “The Big Bang Theory.”

You mean Apple doesn’t necessarily have to rely on a 24-hour live feed of snuff films and [BLEEP] videos that show [BLEEP] [BLEEPING] with [BLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP]?

With competition so fierce it doesn’t make much sense for Apple to box its own content service into a corner just as it’s struggling to get its footing the ring.

You could easily have said the same thing about the App Store ten years ago and that turned out pretty OK.

Apple’s shows to date have been pretty poorly received. It is certainly no guarantee they’re going to do well in this effort. But sex and violence are not required to make a good show.

  
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