Tom Holland’s new TV show is not for the faint of heart. In fact, he found the process of starring in and working behind the scenes as a producer on the new Apple TV+ drama The Crowded Room so demanding that he’s decided to take a year off from acting.
“It was a tough time, for sure,” Holland told Extra in advance of his new 10-episode drama debuting its first three episodes on Apple’s streamer this Friday, June 9. “We were exploring certain emotions that I have definitely never experienced before. And then on top of that, being a producer, dealing with the day-to-day problems that come with any film set, just added that extra level of pressure.”
Given when the show wrapped back in the fall, that means The Crowded Room star is about seven months or so into his year-long hiatus. The project that inspired him to take an extended break sees Holland portraying Danny Sullivan, a man who’s arrested following his involvement in a shooting in 1979 in New York City. The story is told through a series of interviews with interrogator Rya Goodwin (Amanda Seyfried), which reveals the mysterious past that shaped Danny’s life.
Having said all that — “Oh, joy,” I can remember thinking to myself when The Crowded Room was first announced. Another downer of a crime saga. If only we had more of these on TV and as the subject of podcasts, because there just aren’t enough dark and twisty crime stories about murders right now…
In all seriousness, if you’re like me and don’t have a lot of spare time to invest in streaming content, this is probably not the show you’ll feel good about settling in to watch. It has a dismal Rotten Tomatoes critics’ score at the moment, and while only a few reviewers have tried it out yet, they’re all saying more or less the same thing (and I absolutely agree with them). The Crowded Room is “underdeveloped.” “Frustrating.” An “overlong sob story.” From the San Francisco Chronicle: “(It’s) hard to say exactly what this 10-hour psychological thriller thinks it’s doing.”
Watch these Apple shows instead of The Crowded Room
Fortunately, if it’s quality drama that you’re after, Apple TV+ still has plenty of those on offer. Here are three picks from me that you can’t go wrong with — and that I’d recommend you start with before thinking of giving The Crowded Room a try:
Fans of this Apple drama include Stephen King, who’s raved about the 6-episode Black Bird that it’s nothing short of “brilliant and riveting.” Per Apple, it was “Inspired by actual events, when high school football hero and decorated policeman’s son Jimmy Keene (Taron Egerton) is sentenced to 10 years in a minimum-security prison (and) given the choice of a lifetime — enter a maximum-security prison for the criminally insane and befriend suspected serial killer Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser), or stay where he is and serve his full sentence with no possibility of parole.”
Moreover, it has near-perfect critics’ and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing (97% and 95%, respectively).
Drops of God
If you had told me a month or two ago that Apple TV+ would release an adaptation of a popular manga set in the world of fine wines that I and so many other people would get instantly hooked on, I’d have laughed in your face.
Drops of God, though, is basically Apple’s version of Succession, and I don’t make that comparison lightly.
The story, in brief: Alexandre Léger, creator of the famous Léger Wine Guide and world-renowned figure in oenology, has just died. He leaves behind two potential heirs to his wine collection, valued at $148 million: A daughter in Paris, Camille, who hasn’t seen her father since her parents separated when she was nine. And Alexandre’s protege, the brilliant young oenologist Issei Tomine.
In other words, it’s the biological daughter versus the “adopted” son. The inheritance, including ownership of Léger’s empire, will go to the winner of three wine-related challenges. A set of tests, by the way, that put Camille at a disadvantage right from the start — since she gets a nosebleed if she has even a drop of alcohol. To prepare, she decamps to a vineyard in France owned by one of her father’s friends, and she spends a month learning everything she can about the different smells and tastes of wine.
Drops of God is currently one of my favorite shows of 2023 from any streamer.
Finally, from director and executive producer Ben Stiller and creator Dan Erickson, Severance tells the story of office workers at the fictional Lumon Industries, whose employees have undergone a “severance” procedure that surgically divides their memories between their work and personal lives.
Most of the action takes place in a drab, completely unremarkable-looking office complex. And as a result of the “severance” process, these employees’ work selves are cut off, consciously, from their so-called “outies” (their versions that exist in the outside world). It’s super creepy, and there’s an air of menace and tension throughout that will keep you hooked and wanting to know what Lumon is up to. Special consideration must also be given to Patricia Arquette, who can send a chill down your spine with her delivery of even the most innocuous lines.
This dystopian drama is like no TV series I’ve ever seen before, and I can’t recommend it enough.