Apple’s Netflix-like streaming service Apple TV Plus has arguably taken its biggest leap forward this year, in terms of recognition and appreciation of what it’s trying to achieve — in a way that has largely eluded this most boutique of streamers since its 2019 launch.
Earlier this year, for example, we saw Apple TV Plus become the first streamer to win a Best Picture Oscar (for Coda), beating Netflix to the punch. The service, which you can sign up for here, also had a nice showing at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards, with nine Emmy wins in total for shows like Ted Lasso and Severance. Not too bad at all for a service that’s only three years as old as of today (November 1), and launched in 2019 with just nine titles for $4.99/month.
Apple TV Plus shows
Granted, the Apple TV Plus library is still pretty thin, compared to the bulging pile of content available from rivals like Netflix. But at $7/month, with 146 titles across the service to enjoy, price shouldn’t really be an issue here. It’s simply a matter of whether you’ll be able to find enough quality shows to watch to make an Apple TV Plus subscription worth your while.
And with that in mind, you’ll find some recommendations in this post which should definitely help in that regard.
The film side of the streamer, we should note, is lighter on content compared to its fast-growing library of original TV shows. Nevertheless, there are certainly some gems to be found among Apple’s films, like Tom Hanks’ WWII drama Greyhound. The Sundance charmer Cha Cha Real Smooth is another.
That said, let’s take a closer look at four Apple TV Plus shows that are absolute must-watches, all of which also have wowed both critics and fans.
As the third quarter of 2022 winds down, I’m already certain that this multigenerational, multi-language drama from Apple based on the 2017 novel of the same name from Min Jin Lee will be on my year-end best TV of 2022 list. And it will probably be right near the top, at that.
“Epic in scope and intimate in tone,” the iPhone maker explains about this Apple TV Plus standout, “the story begins with a forbidden love and crescendos into a sweeping saga that journeys between Korea, Japan, and America to tell an unforgettable story of war and peace, love and loss, triumph and reckoning.”
The production values here are breathtaking and cinematic. And the characters’ stories hooked me in much the same way as those on a show like Lost did. Also, keep your eyes open, in Episode 4, for what’s been one of my favorite streaming TV moments of the year so far. It’s when the character of Solomon, a Korean businessman raised in Japan and educated in America, dances in the rain to a gorgeous cover of In Between Days.
If you’re like me and love espionage films, spy novels, and the like, meanwhile, Apple’s Slow Horses is a show that will keep you hooked from start to finish. It’s based on a 2010 novel of the same name from the fantastic spy novelist Mick Herron — and the title, you come to find out, is a bit of a disparaging pun. Basically, the show is about a kind of outpost for washed-up spies (Slough House) who couldn’t cut it in the main MI5 office. So they’re put out to pasture. They’re the slow horses, as it were.
“I know it’s not easy being banished from MI5 to my department,” Gary Oldman’s character Jackson Lamb says at one point in the show. “But that’s on you. Only screw-ups get sent to Slough House. And I’ve got to be honest. Working with you has been the lowest point in a disappointing career.”
This is one of the few shows or movies in the genre that presents the inhabitants of the secret world as real people. Not as super-attractive quasi-action heroes, always lucky and smart enough to save the day.
This next anthology series isn’t really comparable to anything else on Apple’s streamer, one of the many things that make Little America such a tender and endearing collection of portraits about the immigrant experience in America.
The series basically dramatizes the real-life stories of immigrants from around the world, each pursuing their own version of the American Dream. There’s also some serious creative talent attached to this show, including Emmy Award nominee Lee Eisenberg (WeCrashed, The Office), The Big Sick’s Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Jordan, Master of None’s Alan Yang, and Academy Award winner Siân Heder (CODA, Orange is The New Black).
Season 2 of Little America debuts December 9 on Apple TV Plus. There’s also a companion Little America Apple original podcast to enjoy.
Two more Apple TV shows to check out
For the other two titles on this admittedly subjective list, we’ve got one more spy series worth watching. As well as Apple TV Plus’ first indisputable home run hit.
After you finish watching Slow Horses, this should be the next title on your Apple TV Plus watch list. As a matter of fact, I’d actually recommend watching Tehran first, as soon as you sign up for the service and are considering what to watch. It’s that good.
This show has everything I want in a spy thriller, be it a movie or TV series. Realism, in the form of a seemingly ripped-from-the-headlines plot. Murky allegiances. A flawed protagonist. A chief antagonist who’s more of a flesh-and-blood human than a two-dimensional villain. Plus action, and twists that keep you guessing right till the end.
Here’s how Apple summarizes Tehran. “An espionage thriller from Fauda writer Moshe Zonder that tells the thrilling story of a Mossad agent who goes deep undercover on a dangerous mission in Tehran that places her and everyone around her in dire jeopardy.”
In the show, Mossad hacker/spy Tamar Rabinyan is dropped deep inside Iran — into its capital city, in fact, as the show’s title suggests. She’s there to hack into and disarm the defenses of an Iranian nuclear reactor that the Israelis want to bomb. Needless to say, it goes wrong — and it keeps going wrong. While the show, meanwhile, does everything right, and then some.
That brings us to what’s arguably the crown jewel in the Apple TV Plus content library at the moment.
Ted Lasso is a sweet, fish-out-of-water comedy about a soccer coach from America who’s brought over to coach in the UK. And the awards it picked up at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards this week certainly attest to the show’s quality and its preeminence in the Apple TV Plus lineup. They included: Outstanding Comedy Series; Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (for Jason Sudeikis); Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (for Brett Goldstein); and Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series (for MJ Delaney).
That Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, by the way, follows the same award that the show won last year. In fact, Ted Lasso is only the eighth comedy series in the Emmys’ 74 years to pull off that repeat. Moreover, the show’s second season this year also became the most Emmy-winning comedy for the second year in a row.
You don’t have to enjoy soccer or, heck, even be much of a sports fan at all to appreciate this winner. This is a show about overcoming adversity, finding inspiration in simple things, and the importance of kindness. The only show in TV history that will have you wanting to be a goldfish (if you know, you know).
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