Apple seeks TV success on its own terms with little or no sex, violence, or politics

“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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Apple inks content deal with Oprah Winfrey – June 15, 2018
Apple’s original content is further along than you think with 16 new shows in the works – June 15, 2018
Apple is close to a deal for an animated feature film – June 14, 2018
Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul join Apple’s upcoming drama ‘Are You Sleeping?’ – June 14, 2018
Apple nabs creative development executive Layne Eskridge from Netflix – June 12, 2018
Apple hires Broadway Video’s Kelly Costello as business affairs executive – June 12, 2018
‘Master’s of Sex’ star Lizzy Caplan joins cast of upcoming Apple series ‘Are You Sleeping’ – June 7, 2018
Apple TV: The underestimated story – June 5, 2018
‘Once Upon a Time’ co-creators sign on as showrunners for Steven Spielberg ‘Amazing Stories’ reboot for Apple – May 22, 2018
Apple inks deal for Isaac Asimov ‘Foundation’ TV series – April 10, 2018
Apple aiming original TV series launches for spring or summer 2019 – March 26, 2018
Is this Apple’s plan for Apple TV? – March 22, 2018
Apple orders animated comedy ‘Central Park’ from ‘Bob’s Burgers’ creator Loren Bouchard – March 12, 2018
Apple hires Carol Trussell as Head Of Production for Worldwide Video Programming division – February 22, 2018
Apple’s TV tactics: Can Cupertino figure out the television formula? – January 16, 2018
Apple orders ‘See’ series, a futuristic drama from ‘Hunger Games’ director – January 10, 2018
Life after iTunes: Apple’s big media challenge – January 9, 2018
Apple developing new original drama ‘Are You Sleeping’ starring Octavia Spencer – January 3, 2018
Three more Amazon Studios executives move to Apple – December 26, 2017
Apple orders space drama series from ‘Battlestar Galactica’ producer Ronald D. Moore – December 15, 2017
Apple gives Jennifer Aniston-Reese Witherspoon series a 2-season order, confirms Spielberg’s ‘Amazing Stories’ reboot – November 9, 2017
Apple outbids Netflix for show starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon – November 8, 2017
Apple eyes iconic studio as base for Hollywood production push; vying with Netflix for high-profile Jennifer Aniston drama – September 1, 2017
The magic and misdirection of Apple’s streaming strategy – August 18, 2017
Apple wants to spend $1 billion on 10 original TV shows over the next year – August 16, 2017
Former WGN America president Matt Cherniss joins Apple in latest TV push – August 15, 2017
Rivals leaving Apple behind as Apple TV remains stuck in a test pattern – August 8, 2017
Apple’s so-called TV ‘strategy’ continues to be an embarrassing joke – June 30, 2017
Apple poaches Sony TV executives to lead major push into original content – June 16, 2017
Dr. Dre to star in Apple’s first, sex-soaked scripted television series ‘Vital Signs’ – February 12, 2016

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


  1. Apple is cutting their own throat on this and the only viewers they will get are goodie two shoes and bible punchers. If there isn’t sex, violence and a little politics in movies they are not worth watching other than documentaries.

    1. Baloney. I give Apple all the credit in the world producing wholesome entertainment. It’s a bold gamble for sure, but as others pointed it out — it just works. Enjoy your potty mouth sewer shows that are a plague on the entertainment industry and coarsening our culture …

      1. Agreed. All the same, I was enthralled by some of the scenes in Game of Thrones, particularly the ones where Daenerys Targaryen turns the tables on her vicious adversaries, with a little help from her dragons and tactical advice from the dwarf Tyrion Lannister. Explicit scenes of violence and sexuality succeed, I find, when they are expertly placed in a story that compels viewers to crave justice and revenge.. two things that elude us in daily life..

      2. Agreed. All the same, I was enthralled by some of the scenes in Game of Thrones, particularly the ones where Daenerys Targaryen turns the tables on her vicious adversaries, with a little help from her bloodyhirsty dragons and shrewd tactical advice from the dwarf Tyrion Lannister. Explicit scenes of violence and sexuality succeed, I find, when they are expertly placed in a story that compels viewers to crave justice and revenge.. two things that tend to elude us in daily life..

    1. Apple’s demographic is 2 generations younger than CBS’s demographic.

      Seems like they’re setting themselves a very difficult task. TBD. With Amazing Stories type fare, it can be done, but the scope is limited.

      They have (had?) Dre on the payroll. Kind of hard to turn your nose up at the guy’s story, isn’t it?

  2. what does that even mean. cuz, i had this idea i was going to pitch where, one-by-one, gilligan consumes his fellow castaways, murders the beverly hillbillys in a single episode of synthetic-drug induced mayhem but then, in an unexpected twist, builds a splendid float for the pride parade. who’s going to edit my work. i think i have the right to know before i commit a lot of resources to this breathtaking project. 🙂

  3. Apple needs to stop trying to pretend they are Disney. Their inconsistencies when it comes to mature content are glaringly obvious. And worse, when it comes to the most popular music on Apple Music or iTunes, they are complete hypocrites. You can’t make all of your money on obscene rap/hip-hop music and then turn around and pretend you have family values. It’s their platform so ultimately they can do as they please, but spare the users and shareholders the sanctimonious act about values. Don’t be the gatekeepers on some things and not others.

  4. Well, someone has to stop the circle.
    Are we really looking forward to each TV-show, each format trying to out-do its predecessor on sex or violence (or both)?

    I’m giving Apple props for at least trying.

    If all a director/producer (or whoever calls the shots) can come up with to make it more interesting is to show a few more tits or vags and cut off a few more heads in slo-mo, than that in itself is pretty lame, IMO.

    Nobody needs an excuse to go to YP these days to see a vag.
    And LifeLeak provides all the gore you want (though not in 4k).

  5. Even Shakespeare knew that drama is about sex, death, ugliness and madness. The world is not a sanitary place and drama at its best reflects this.

    Just pure stupid to even bother with an expensive NBC. Meaningless.

  6. If Apple won’t produce anything like Westworld or Fear The Walking Dead, I don’t want to watch it. Series like Little House On The Prairie or Little Women really cause me to yawn. I take a huge pass on that boring stuff.

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