Every month, subscription streaming services add a new batch of titles to their libraries. Here are our picks for December.
The tech giant, which recently gained exclusive rights to the widely beloved “Peanuts” specials, said they would air on public airwaves again this year.
Every month, subscription streaming services add a new batch of titles to their libraries. Here are our picks for November.
On his new program, the former “Daily Show” host will “explore topics that are currently part of the national conversation and his advocacy work,” Apple said.
On first screening, the network assumed it had a disaster on its hands. It was a quiet cartoon — more of a meditation on seasonal depression than a proper holiday film. The pacing was slow, it was voiced by a cast of amateur children and the soundtrack amounted to little more than the jazz piano stylings of a mustachioed North Beach hipster nicknamed “Dr. Funk.”
Worst of all, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” actively railed against the commercialization of the season, primarily in the form of an extended monologue from the blanket-wielding Linus set in the context of Jesus’s nativity.
“[The executives said], ‘We’ll play it once and that will be all. Good try,’ ” producer Lee Mendelson told me in an interview back in 2006. “[Director Bill Melendez] and I thought we had ruined Charlie Brown forever when it was done. We kind of agreed with the network. One of the animators stood up in the back of the room — he had had a couple of drinks — and he said, ‘It’s going to run for a hundred years,’ and then fell down. We all thought he was crazy, but he was more right than we were.”
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” has, of course, endured. The 25-minute animated special has aired on network television every year since its 1965 debut. It ran on CBS until 2000 and then on ABC each year subsequently, including special broadcasts on its 40th and 50th anniversaries on 2005 and 2015, respectively. For its 55th anniversary, it won’t appear on network TV at all.
In October, Apple acquired the exclusive rights to the special, as part of its ongoing, billion-dollar Apple TV+ push. The deal with Wildbrain, Peanuts Worldwide and the now-late Mendelson’s production company makes Apple’s streaming platform the exclusive rights holder for Peanuts content. That means that subsequent specials “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” will see a similar fate.
It’s become a familiar story in the era of streaming. Last year HBO Max locked down exclusive access to new episodes of “Sesame Street,” though that specific deal allowed for episodes to air on PBS at a later date. There’s a bit of a loophole here, too. The Peanuts deal requires Apple to offer the specials for free for a limited window. The “Great Pumpkin” will be free through the service from October 30 until November 1, “Thanksgiving” will be made available from November 25 to the 27 and “Christmas” will come decidedly earlier this year, from December 11 to the 13.
“[Peanuts creator Charles Schulz] would say things like, ‘I never thought it would be around 25 years later,’ ” his widow Jean Schulz told me in an interview for that same piece. “One of the reasons that Christmas is so great is that back in 1965 there were no VCRs or DVDs, so you saw that show once, and you had to wait a whole year to see it again. And when it came on, it still held up. It was still charming.”
More than a half of a century later, the special still qualifies as both. It’s a perfect artifact of American popular culture that is very much both a product of its own era and a gentle protest against it. Of course, all of the things that Linus warned us about back in 1965 have only compounded in the intervening decades. The media landscape, too, has transformed several times since then.
In a world in which change is the only constant, watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on TV has been something to rely on. This year, the short becomes the latest bit of content to get shoveled up in the great streaming wars of 2020, as media companies fight tooth and nail for back catalogues.
Cast as the perennial cynic and antagonist football mover, Lucy Van Pelt tells the titular character, “Look, Charlie, let’s face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket.” That, at least, hasn’t changed.
The unabashedly entertaining Apple TV+ series, which follows a young female operative in Iran, is a departure from the gritty, manly espionage dramas Israel is known for, like “Fauda.”
A fish-out-of-water sports comedy on Apple TV+ takes folksiness to a new level of sophistication.
Apple is expanding its relationship with media mogul Oprah Winfrey. The company announced today its plans for a new series, “The Oprah Conversation,” which will feature timely discussions between Oprah and “newsmakers, though leaders and masters of their craft” across a range of topics. The first few episodes will focus on conversations around race, given recent events like the BLM protests.
The series, which was filmed remotely during the pandemic, will begin on July 30 at 4 PM PST with an episode titled “How to Be an Antiracist,” which will see Oprah and bestselling author Professor Ibram X. Kendi talking with book readers who are on a journey to learn how to become anti-racist. This episode will then be followed by a two-part interview with athlete, commentator, activist and creator and host of “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” Emmanuel Acho on August 1.
Oprah will also converse with Equal Justice Initiative founder and bestselling author Bryan Stevenson later in the series.
The show’s format will include Oprah speaking with guests, but will also incorporate audience engagement, like viewer questions.
This is the third series that Oprah is now doing for Apple, having launched “Oprah Talks COVID-19” in late March, and “Oprah’s Book Club” last year, as part of her multi-year agreement with the company. Another show, produced in partnership with Prince Harry and focused on mental health, has yet to arrive. Oprah also participated in Apple’s documentary series, “Visible: Out on Television.”
Unfortunately for Apple, Oprah’s multi-year deal is overlapping with a pandemic which has shut down TV production leading to the launch of these “filmed remotely”-style series.
Oprah’s COVID series, for example, was quickly put together in reaction to the health crisis and used lower production values, making it a first of its kind on Apple TV+. Before its arrival, Apple TV+ content had been highly produced and offered in 4K. But those initial experiments in remote TV production made further shows like this new series possible.
While much of Apple TV+ content requires a subscription, “The Oprah Conversation” will debut exclusively on the service for free on Thursday, July 30, Apple says. After the first free episode, the remainder of the series will require a $4.99 per month Apple TV+ subscription to view. The Apple TV+ service is available across devices, including Apple’s own, as well as select smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku.
Animated shows are finally moving away from letting white actors play characters of color. But even well-intentioned efforts at increasing diversity create complications.
If you’re looking for something earnest and coronavirus-free, the Apple TV+ series from Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson may be perfectly timed.
Based on a 1955 novel, the film follows a Navy captain who must shepherd men and ships across the perilous Atlantic Ocean to join the war.
At today’s 2020 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple dropped the first teaser trailer for Foundation, a new TV series for Apple TV adapted from Isaac Asimov’s seminal Foundation series of novels. The new show, which stars Jared Harris and Lee Pace, had already begun filming when the global pandemic shut down production in March. The teaser offers our first glimpse of what this highly anticipated series will look like, as well as a few peeks behind the curtain on set.
(Mild spoilers for the first book in the Foundation series below.)
The series started out as eight short stories by Asimov that appeared in Astounding Magazine between 1942 and early 1950, inspired in part by Edward Gibbons’ History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The first four of those stories were collected, along with a new introductory story, and published as Foundation in 1951. The next pair of stories became Foundation and Empire (1952), with the final two stories appearing in 1953’s Second Foundation. Asimov’s publishers eventually convinced him to continue the series, starting with two sequels: Foundation’s Edge (1982) and Foundation and Earth (1986). Next came a pair of prequels: Prelude to Foundation (1988) and Forward the Foundation (1993), the latter published posthumously. (Asimov died in 1992.)
This musical valentine to urban life, from the creator of “Bob’s Burgers,” is another TV show that has new resonance in the pandemic era. But for once that relevance is delightful, not depressing.
With production temporarily halted on so many films and television shows, casts and crews are getting creative about bringing new content to all the people fighting off ennui while sheltering in place. Late night hosts are putting together mini-talk shows from home, the main cast of Parks and Recreation virtually reunited for a special episode, and performers from various Hairspray productions (stage and screen) put together a show-stopping group performance of “You Can’t Stop the Beat” to benefit the Actor’s Fund. Now an Apple TV+ comedy series is getting into the game by teasing a very special episode, Mythic Quest: Quarantine, dropping next week.
Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet is a sitcom set in the offices of a game development studio; it debuted earlier this year, to mostly positive reviews. Co-creator and star Rob McElhenney (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) got the idea for the series after chatting with representatives from video game publisher Ubisoft about building a sitcom around gaming. The company even designed some of the fictional video game characters and game world used on the show, as well as serving as consultants for small details and technical jargon.
McElhenney plays Ian Grimm, creator of an epic fantasy game called Mythic Quest, with a story written by an aging hippie novelist, C.W. Longbottom (F. Murray Abraham). In S1, the company is planning the first narrative expansion for the game, Raven’s Banquet. Community‘s Danny Pudi plays the “head of monetization,” Brad, with David Hornsby (another It’s Always Sunny alum) playing executive producer David Brittlesbee. There’s also chief engineer Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao, A gURLs wURLd ), Dana (Imani Hakim, Everyone Hates Chris), and Rachel (Ashley Burch, Borderlands 2), whose job is to test the games for bugs.
The Netflix hit rejuvenated interest in short, dark TV tales, and now streaming services are awash in eerie stories with last-minute twists. Here’s a blood-spattered buffet of horror anthologies.
An Apple TV Plus mini-series with a stellar cast also raises another question: Does everything need to be this long?
Ad-Rock and Mike D share stories and grief in a live documentary directed by Spike Jonze.
Over the weekend, Apple introduced the first two episodes of its new Apple TV+ show, “Oprah Talks COVID-19,” for free viewing. In the first episode, Oprah Winfrey interviews actor Idris Elba, who recently tested positive for coronavirus, as well as his wife, Sabrina Dhowre, who is also positive. In the second episode, Oprah talks to longtime friend and supporter Reverand Wintly Phipps about the pandemic.
The interviews are conducted over FaceTime video calls with guests and are meant to offer hope and thought leadership, Oprah explained on Twitter.
“Like millions of people all over the world, I’ve been staying safer at home for over a week now. I know a lot of people are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, & uncertain,” Oprah wrote in a tweet. “[Because] of that, I want to offer some hope & gather thought leaders & people going through it to add some perspective,” she said.
In her interview with Elba, they talk about his decision to go public and his wife’s decision to quarantine with him, plus the result of her test. The shows have a more inspirational tone, compared with traditional news interviews.
“I think we all lose as human beings if we just think of this as a physical virus. I think it’s here to teach us, show us something about ourselves, as a world. This is a moment for our humanity to either rise or not,” Oprah says in one episode.
Though the majority of Apple TV+ programming is only available on a subscription basis, this COVID-19 show is available for free.
It can be watched across platforms, including via the Apple TV app for Mac, iPad, iPhone, tv.apple.com and Apple TV, as well as through the Apple TV+ app for streaming platforms or via AirPlay-enabled TVs.
The program is one of several Oprah is involved with for Apple TV+.
In 2018, Oprah and Apple announced a multi-year partnership on original content for the Apple TV+ streaming service. That has already resulted in an Apple TV+ show that brings back Oprah’s Book Club as a series of author interviews. Another show, produced in partnership with Prince Harry and focused on mental health, has yet to arrive. A third, a documentary about sexual assault in the music industry, was canceled.
This new show, put together quickly in reaction to the COVID-19 crisis and using lower-production values, is the first show of its kind on Apple TV+, where the content is typically highly produced and made available in 4K. Apple hasn’t said how many episodes will arrive in total, but this is a unique situation.