Depending on your relationship with Apple and its products, you may be offered a free trial for Apple TV+, its streaming content service. Buy a new device, get a free year. Otherwise, you can get a seven day free trial, which, given the relative paucity of product, should be plenty of time for you to decide whether you want to keep going at $7.99 a month.
I reviewed Morning Wars when the service dropped last year, but I caught up on a few more titles. The one I was most excited about, and which led to me dipping back into the service for review, was Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, which is not a Game of Thrones clone nor a similar fantasy adventure but rather a half-hour sitcom set at a Silicon Valley video game company whose massively successful feature product is called Mythic Quest, which, in the first episode, launches an update called Raven’s Banquet, giving the show its unwieldy title. My high hopes were lashed to the pedigree of the creators: Charlie Day and Rob McElhenney are two of the lads from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, which, for fourteen years, has been one of the freshest American sitcoms of this millennium.
Alas, those hopes were dashed. Where It’s Always Sunny is gritty, bold, hand-sewn and relentlessly provocative, the new show is timid, sanitised, safe and clean. It feels like American network TV. The jokes are sub-par, the characters shallow echoes of types we’ve seen far too often, and the acting – except for McElhenney himself, who adequately plays the game’s conceited creator – too hammy, too sit-commy. It’s an astonishingly conservative play from a couple of the baddest boys of American comedy.
Elsewhere, Home is Apple’s very glossy take on architecture porn. From the very clean white font of the title card, surely designed by Sir Jony Ive, to the endlessly perfect drone shots and relentlessly comforting milquetoast new-agey muzak, this is Apple-tooled precision all the way, gleaming and seductive and desperate to please. I watched two episodes, one about a stunning eco-house in Austin, Texas, and the other a truly obsessional transformative apartment in Hong Kong, and while both featured all the smooth adoring camerawork this genre demands (look at those custom-made hinges!) along with deep dives into the minds and methods of the domiciles’ creators, both outstayed their welcome – at half an hour. Unlike, say, The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes, which features the delightful interplay of architect Piers Taylor and daffy actress Caroline Quentin, Apple’s entry has decided to defy the genre’s convention – to have a host or hosts – which proves to be a mistake. Like the Tin Woodman, the show desperately wants to have a heart, but doesn’t.
What does have a heart – a big one – is Snoopy In Space, which by its very existence shows you how strange the Apple TV+ line-up is. This is an eight-minute, twelve-episode animated adventure for kids that directly positions itself within the existing animated Peanuts universe: the animation style, voice-work and, vitally, the music all echo, admirably precisely, the tone and feel of the classic TV specials and the many cinematic and television outings since. You won’t get the melancholic, existential musings that the strips, and the best of the animated works, provide; instead, there is a healthy focus on the science of space travel (the show was developed in partnership with NASA). How very Apple. And how very delightful.