apple TV

Does ‘Planet of the Apps’ mean that Apple is bad at producing TV?

On a recent episode of The Talk Show, John Gruber argued that Apple’s potential as a TV content producer shouldn’t be judged by its first two (underwhelming) efforts, Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke. “What was Netflix’s first show?” he asked, “No one fucking remembers, right?”

On the one hand, citing Netflix undermines Gruber’s argument. Netflix’s first original series was House of Cards, whose excellent first season premiered to universal acclaim. Weighed against that show, Planet of the Apps comes up wanting. Apple’s reality show debut hasn’t attracted enough critical attention to be scored by Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes, but those reviewers who bothered to weigh in panned the show.

On the other hand, there is precedent for a streaming service achieving success after mediocre first efforts at original content. Hulu’s first few web-only shows generated hardly a ripple of interest. But The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian drama from Hulu that debuted earlier this year, just won the Emmy for best drama series—the first and only streaming series to win that honor.

Presumably, Apple’s hoping to follow in Hulu’s footsteps. First, produce a few low-budget, under-the-radar web series. Then, once you’ve debugged the content production assembly line, hire more proven talent and pump in the cash. Time will tell whether Planet of the Apps has primed the pump for Apple’s future television success.

For comparison’s sake, here are the Metacritic scores for several streaming services’ first original series:

Company First original streaming series Premiere First season Metacritic rating
Hulu If I Can Dream March 2010 N/A
Netflix House of Cards February 2013 76
Amazon Betas April 2013 69
CBS All Access The Good Fight February 2017 80
Apple Planet of the Apps June 2017 N/A

technology TV Uncategorized

The best Internet TV device is still your laptop.

Hooking up a PC to a TV using cables. That’s so 2008.

So proclaims the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg, whose recent article summarizes the many options consumers have for getting Internet video onto their TVs. Xbox, TiVo, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, smart TVs: these devices purport to make online video just as easy to watch as more familiar broadcast television. Click a button on your remote, sit back, and watch.

Why does Mossberg exclude the possibility of just hooking up your PC to the TV? He dismisses this as the “most complex” option. But is it? Connect a single cable, and your set-up is done. Now watching the TV means simply browsing the web. There’s no new interface to learn. No peripheral device you have to buy. No flaky proprietary streaming protocol that may or may not work reliably (a la Chromecast, Airplay). No extra monthly subscription fee (a la Xbox).

More importantly, your content options are simple, too. With all other Internet TV devices, choosing one locks you out of some video services. Apple TV lacks Amazon Instant Video. Roku has no YouTube app. Use your PC, though, and you get everything. Anything that can play on the web can now play on your TV. Not only do you get the major video services (e.g. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc.), but you can play live streams from the major news networks. You can peruse less-familiar sites like Funny Or Die, Vimeo, and Daily Motion. You can watch sports broadcasts using your subscription to or NHL GameCenter. You can even project your less… (ahem) “legitimate” content sources to your television.

The main complaint about this set-up? You lose that mindless, “sit-back and browse” experience so familiar from traditional TV. Hauling your butt off the couch every time a show ends can get annoying. There are options to improve this experience: hard-wiring a long HDMI cable to your recliner would work. Or you could download a smartphone remote app that lets you control your PC while sitting down.

But, then again, do you want to watch mindlessly? One of the scariest things about traditional TV is how easy you can blow your weekend, watching shows you hardly like. Conversely, an advantage of the PC-to-TV set-up is its occasional inconvenience. While it’s easy to watch what you want, it’s just enough of a hassle to discourage those lazy, trashy marathons you later regret.