We’re four years into the existence of Apple TV Plus, and the network still feels like it’s punching above its weight class. It doesn’t have nearly the expansive library of its competitors, but the shows (and occasional film) it does have are really, really good —usually.
I’ve heard friends compare it to HBO in the 2000s, and that feels like an apt comparison. There are plenty of great movies, but there’s also an astonishingly well-programmed group of TV shows that seem to speak to a very wide audience, from its core group of science fiction shows like For All Mankind and Foundation to its more outlandish fair like Schmigadoon! and The Morning Show.
Apple TV Plus has found a way to reach a wide audience with a small array of high-budget and highly entertaining shows.
It will help if you’re already a fan of Legendary’s massive monster shared universe, but the beauty of Monarch is you really don’t have to be. This series is based in the same universe as the 2014 Godzilla and its many sequels, but unlike those films, here you actually care about the characters. It’s a prequel set in the ‘50s and in 2015 and chronicles multiple generations of the same family as they explore the world of giant monsters that could be a threat to Earth — or its savior. You might be distracted by the very good stunt casting of Kurt Russell and his son, Wyatt Russell, playing the same character in different times, but you’ll stick around for the monsters and everyone else.
This show, produced by and starring Brie Larson, is based on the book of the same name and it’s just as heartfelt, encouraging, and occasionally devastating. Larson is Elizabeth Zott, a talented chemist trying to make it as a single working woman in the late ‘50s. After a series of devastating losses, she picks herself up, launches a science-based cooking show, and becomes a star. I don’t want to spoil things, but this show is the kind of romantic drama we desperately need more of from Hollywood.
This science fiction drama from Ron D. Moore is one of the longest-running shows on Apple TV Plus, and for good reason. It’s really that good. While it started as an alternate history show that pondered what would happen if the Soviets made it to the Moon first, it’s now become some of the best science fiction on TV. The fourth season has felt particularly prescient. Set in the early 2000s, it explores the concept of commercially driven space exploration. There are big conversations about the rights of billionaires, labor organizing, and how NASA can function in a world where the biggest and best rockets are made by private corporations.
This is another show based on a book, but instead of women navigating a debilitating patriarchy in the ‘50s, it’s about women navigating a debilitating dystopia in the future. It’s a mystery and thriller set lower down in the ground than most of us will ever go, and it uses its unique and unsettling setting to ratchet up the tension, even as it explores how a small community comes together at the end of the world.
This show about friends reconnecting in their 40s is basically Thirtysomething for millennials. Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen have incredible chemistry as platonic best friends with a relationship so close and chaotic it can warp those around them. Oddly enough, its first season ends on a super satisfying note, so it was a surprise to see it’s coming back for a second season. But if it’s as cathartic as the first season, I’m certainly not going to object.