“Tim Cook sat down more than a year ago to watch Apple Inc.’s first scripted drama, ‘Vital Signs,’ and was troubled by what he saw. The show, a dark, semi-biographical tale of hip hop artist Dr. Dre, featured characters doing lines of cocaine, an extended orgy in a mansion and drawn guns,” Tripp Mickle and Joe Flint report for The Wall Street Journal. “It’s too violent, Mr. Cook told Apple Music executive Jimmy Iovine, said people familiar with Apple’s entertainment plans. Apple can’t show this.”

“Across Hollywood and inside Apple the show has become emblematic of the challenges faced by the technology giant as it pushes into entertainment. Apple earmarked $1 billion for Hollywood programming last year,” Mickle and Flint report. “But in the tone CEO Mr. Cook has set for it, whatever Apple produces mustn’t taint a pristine brand image that has helped the company collect 80% of the profits in the global smartphone market.”

“Apple’s entertainment team must walk a line few in Hollywood would consider. Since Mr. Cook spiked ‘Vital Signs,’ Apple has made clear, say producers and agents, that it wants high-quality shows with stars and broad appeal, but it doesn’t want gratuitous sex, profanity or violence,” Mickle and Flint report. “Netflix Inc., which helped birth the streaming revolution, built its original-content business on ‘House of Cards,’ a drama about an ethically bankrupt politician, and ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ a comedic drama about a women’s prison. Both feature rough language and plenty of sex.”

“Apple has twice postponed the launch of its first slate of shows, moving it to March from late this year, agents and producers said. One leading producer with projects at Apple expects the date to be pushed back yet further,” Mickle and Flint report. “Of roughly two-dozen shows Apple has in development or production, only a few could veer into ‘TV-MA’ territory, television’s equivalent of R-rated films… Apple’s handful of TV-MA projects include ‘Shantaram,’ about a former heroin addict who smuggles guns to Afghanistan, and a potential show about the late pop star George Michael. Mr. Cook, better known for memorizing spreadsheets and detailing supply costs, makes an unlikely Hollywood kingpin. His favorite TV shows are relatively tame fare such as ‘Friday Night Lights’ and ‘Madame Secretary,’ say people he has spoken with about it… One agent said some members of Apple’s team in Los Angeles began calling themselves ‘expensive NBC.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: This’ll be some tightrope to walk, especially in today’s popular culture. If Apple’s “expensive NBC” is good, though, it’ll sell.

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[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]