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  • Apple and Original TV Programming — Not!

    October 11th, 2017

    Amid published reports that Apple is eyeing original TV programming, to compete with the likes of Amazon, Hulu and Netflix, it appears they may be close to inking a deal with a major Hollywood player.

    Before I read about the show that was being planned, I got to thinking about the original shows on some of those other services. Netflix is a key example of how a streaming service can deliver quality shows that can also win Emmys, or at least get people talking.

    I’m taking about such offerings as “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards.” Certainly the gritty Marvel Comics shows, such as “Daredevil,” have been acclaimed; well most of them anyway.

    Now Netflix is reportedly spending $6 billion this year, and $7 billion in 2018 for original programming. By comparison, Apple’s decision to spend $1 billion on such fare is little more than testing the waters. They’ve also hired former Sony Television executives to handle the production chores, so perhaps you should expect something highly entertaining and compelling, something way beyond that pathetic karaoke show that Apple recently produced.

    So what is Apple planning to do next?

    Well, there was that recent unconfirmed report that Apple was seeking to acquire Eon Productions, a UK-based film production company that is responsible for the James Bond films. It’s hard to believe it all began with “Dr. No” in 1962, a lifetime and several James Bond actors ago. The next unnamed Bond film is set for 2019, again starring Daniel Craig as 007.

    So far, there’s been no word of a new owner, so let’s set that aside one that may actually be true, since it comes from the Wall Street Journal, which often has the inside track on financial news.

    Now one irritating knack of TV producers is to bring back an old show, or do a TV version of a movie. This compares to the tendency of some movie producers to produce a film based on a TV show. So successful films include some “Star Trek” entrants, but such movies as “I Spy” were major flops.

    On the TV screen, “Rush Hour” didn’t fare so well without the original stars, Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. A TV version of “Lethal Weapon” is in its second season, and the second incarnation of “Hawaii 5-0,” is now in its eighth season.

    So reboots sometimes they succeed, although I often wonder if the entertainment companies are just running out of ideas.

    So rather than do anything original, Apple is reportedly completing a deal with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television and NBCUniversal to revise a 1980s fantasy, horror and sci-fi anthology series, “Amazing Stories.” Even then, I didn’t regard it as terribly trendsetting, since it was reminiscent of such fare as “Outer Limits” and “Twilight Zone.” The title, by the way, is derived from a pulp sci-fi magazine that originally debuted in the late 1920s.

    So what’s coming to happen next, a TV version of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” or is any of that suited towards series treatment? I suppose they might consider “Independence Day,” as the Earth continues its ongoing battles against alien invaders, but why must all alien visitors be evil?

    Assuming the “Amazing Stories” deal goes through, it’s not known when it’ll debut, although it’ll reportedly involve 10 episodes budgeted at $5 million each, which is on the high side of what scripted one hour dramas usually cost. Well, perhaps it’ll give them the resources to do better special effects. Will the producers use Final Cut Pro X and other Apple apps to put it all together?

    I suppose it can be an excellent showpiece for Apple products.

    How it’ll be distributed is also the big question mark, since Apple doesn’t have a streaming TV service. I suppose episodes could be offered via iTunes, or perhaps Apple Music can become Apple Music and Video and serve as a showcase for such fare.

    While I have no doubt that Spielberg’s production company will deliver high quality shows, and I’m a huge fan of genre programming, I wonder whether Apple might have done better to consider something more original. Then again the sky’s the limit with an anthology, where lots of stories and casts can be featured.

    It might even be possible to consider a single episode as a possible pilot for its own series if the concept catches on. So maybe there is potential for an “Amazing Stories” reboot.

    But where does Apple go from there? There are reports about a show starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, and that may just be the beginning.

    To a company the size of Apple, a $1 billion investment is just an experiment. Original programming might, at first, be little more than a hobby unless one or more of the new shows catches on.

    But it’s a crowded environment out there when it comes to scripted dramas. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I don’t have the time to watch what’s available now. Except for the summer, when original offerings are slim, I wonder whether how many people will have the time to embrace yet another show.

    I won’t dismiss the possibilities, however, because this is Apple we’re talking about. And saying that Apple has absolutely no experience at producing original TV shows doesn’t wash. Apple finds a way, as hundreds of millions of owners of iPhones can attest.

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