Netflix, Amazon, and now Hulu have both become synonymous with prestige TV, but there’s one giant tech company not far behind the two streaming services — at least in theory. In the past year, Apple has made moves to compete with Netflix, Hulu, and premium cable channels (like HBO and Showtime) for the peak TV crown in 2019.
With more TV series — and places to watch them — than ever, Apple is putting a reported $1 billion toward adding to the peak TV pile. While the company began its foray into scripted series with two current shows offered through Apple Music — the tech-themed Shark Tank–esque reality competition Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke: The Series — the competition really ramped up when it hired veteran TV executives Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht in June 2017. The duo formerly ran Sony Pictures Television, the studio that brought the world Breaking Bad and The Crown.
Van Amburg and Erlicht have engaged in aggressive bidding wars for some of TV’s hottest projects, according to a New York Times report, and will likely surpass its reported budget in doing so. With 13 projects currently in the works, it’s clear the company is ready to spend money to compete with TV’s current titans. (Planet of the Apps, which featured guest judges including Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba, didn’t get much critical acclaim when it debuted in June 2017. Carpool Karaoke: The Series, a spin-off of James Corden’s popular Late Late Show segment, has been ordered for a second season.)
Apple is scheduled to roll out its new programming slate as early as March 2019 and as late as that summer — just in time to go head-to-head with the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones and be eligible for 2019 Emmy consideration.
Of the 13 titles below headed to or intended for the tech giant, Foundation, Little America, and Swagger are in development, while the others are series orders. Read on to find out who the players are and more about the shows.
Talent: Witherspoon and Aniston are both set to star in and executive produce the drama, which was one of the first scripted series Apple announced. While Jay Carson (House of Cards) was originally signed on to write the project, he has since departed and Bates Motel boss Kerry Ehrin is reportedly set to take over.
What it’s about: The morning show drama has already been ordered for two seasons and 20 episodes and will draw background from Brian Stelter’s book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV.
Chances it’ll be a Certified Fresh hit: With the star power and bona fides of Big Little Lies star and producer Witherspoon and Friends vet Aniston, plus the creative power of Ehrin, it’s almost too big to fail. Then again, the drama surrounding Carson’s departure is never a good sign…
Talent: Steven Spielberg is on board to revive his ’80s anthology series. Bryan Fuller (American Gods) and Hart Hanson (Bones) were originally on board to run the show, which was ordered for 10 episodes, but both departed in February 2018.
What it’s about: The sci-fi/horror/supernatural anthology series originally ran on NBC.
Chances it’ll be a Certified Fresh hit: Despite the talent involved, the creative departures could mean there’s more behind-the-scenes drama — which can lead to on-screen discord — afoot. Plus, the series sounds more like a pulpy guilty pleasure than prestige awards bait.
Talent: David S. Goyer (Blade, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy) and Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Avatar 2) are developing an adaptation of the iconic novel series from famed sci-fi author Isaac Asimov for Skydance Television, the company behind Netflix’s ambitious Altered Carbon.
What it’s about: The book series inspired plenty of the sci-fi you love, including Star Wars. It follows a mathematician who predicts the collapse of humanity, which is scattered on planets throughout the galaxy and ruled by the Galactic Empire. The first book was published in 1951, followed by sequels in the subsequent years and two more in the ’80s, along with two prequels.
Chances it’ll be a Certified Fresh hit: There have been numerous attempts to turn Foundation into a feature film or a TV series before (including by disaster-movie king Roland Emmerich and Westworld creator Jonah Nolan). Needless to say, the subject matter is daunting and will require a deft approach to capturing the books’ rich world. It could go very, very wrong. But if done well, it could enjoy Game of Thrones–level success.
Talent: Battlestar Galactica and Outlander creator Ronald D. Moore has teamed up with Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi (Fargo) for the still-untitled series.
What it’s about: The drama, which has been ordered straight to series, explores what would have happened if the global space race had never ended.
Chances it’ll be a Certified Fresh hit: Between BSG and Outlander, Moore certainly has both the cred and the goods to assume he’ll deliver on this one, too.
Talent: M. Night Shyamalan is executive producing and will direct the first episode of this series, from writer Tony Basgallop.
What it’s about: As if the king of big twists would reveal anything about his psychological thriller! Good to note: The first season will consist of 10 half-hour episodes and has been ordered straight to series.
Chances it’ll be a Certified Fresh hit: This one, like Shayamalan’s movies, depends on execution. Will it be a Sixth Sense or a Lady in the Water? Only time will tell.
Talent: Octavia Spencer is set to star in the drama, which is produced by Reese Witherspoon, created and written by Nichelle Tramble Spellman (The Good Wife, Justified), and based on true-crime novel by Kathleen Barber. Sarah Koenig, creator of the podcast phenomenon Serial, is consulting.
What it’s about: Are You Sleeping provides a unique glimpse into America’s obsession with true-crime podcasts and challenges its viewers to consider the consequences when the pursuit of justice is placed on a public stage.
Chances it’ll be a Certified Fresh hit: There’s a reason true-crime stories are so engrossing, and if this series can capture the source of that fascination, then it should thrive.
Talent: Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight wrote the project, which will be directed by Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games).
What it’s about: Reports called the series an “epic, world-building drama set in the future,” but most other details are being kept under wraps.
Chances it’ll be a Certified Fresh hit: Much like the up-in-the-air plot, who even knows?
Talent: Actress Kristen Wiig returns to regular TV for the first time since leaving Saturday Night Live. This new series, which is executive produced by Wiig and Witherspoon and based on a book by author Curtis Sittenfeld, was created by 30 Rock veteran Colleen McGuinness, who will run the series.
What it’s about: Based on Sittenfeld’s short story collection You Think It, I’ll Say It, this is Apple’s first half-hour scripted comedy order. No plot details have been released.
Chances it’ll be a Certified Fresh hit: There are certainly plenty of big names involved. If the show is able to combine Wiig’s humor with the grace she’s brought to her more dramatic film roles then it could score big.
Talent: La La Land director Damien Chazelle is writing and directing every episode of this straight-to-series drama.
What it’s about: No details about the series have been released, other than the fact that it’s the Oscar winner’s second foray into streaming TV (he’s also involved in Netflix’s musical drama The Eddy).
Chances it’ll be a Certified Fresh hit: Since there isn’t any information on what the show is even about, this isn’t a call that can be made quite yet. But Chazelle is batting two for two with his films Whiplash and La La Land, and his upcoming Neil Armstrong biopic First Man looks to be an awards contender.
Talent: Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, the husband-and-wife team behind indie hit The Big Sick, are developing this series for Apple.
What it’s about: The anthology series is based on Epic Magazine’s series of the same name, described as “a small, collective portrait of America’s immigrants — and thereby a portrait of America itself.”
Chances it’ll be a Certified Fresh hit: Given the tender eye and charm they gave their feature film debut, the Oscar-nominated duo are probably a safe bet.
Talent: NBA star Kevin Durant is producing the series along with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Television, and Reggie Rock Blythewood (Shots Fired, Notorious) is writing.
What it’s about: Based on the early life and career of Durant, Swagger will explore the world of Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball and the lives of the players, their families, and coaches.
Chances it’ll be a Certified Fresh hit: Like a jump ball, it’s up in the air. The series is still being developed.
Talent: Documentarian Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor, pictured) will direct all 10 one-hour episodes of the first season.
What it’s about: Home 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.
Chances it’ll be a Certified Fresh hit: If Tyrnauer serves up the dishy stories behind those gated palaces, the series is sure to be more than simply gorgeous real estate porn.