Apple finally made me believe that one of its fabled TV series actually exists with a recent full trailer for The Morning Show. Yes, actual footage! So perhaps it really is all happening. Before that, the tech giant’s entry into the world of original streaming content has mostly been about promises and a shuffling of showrunners. Everyone knows that Disney’s Plus service has the potential to be an industry game-changer, and while Apple is also a part of that conversation, we don’t have much of a sense of what Apple is actually doing at the moment.
Today, THR is reporting that Apple’s original programming slate has hit another snafu—although perhaps it’s a good thing. Apple is cutting the eight-episode drama Bastards, starring Richard Gere, which was picked up straight to series last year when Apple acquired it after a bidding war. Based on an Israeli series, Howard Gordon (Homeland) and Warren Leight (Law & Order: SVU) were set to co-write and act as showrunners for the U.S. version.
But here’s the thing … the logline describes it as Gere being set to star “as one of two elderly Vietnam vets and best friends who find their monotonous lives upended when a woman they both loved 50 years ago is killed by a car. Their lifelong regrets and secrets collide with their resentment of today’s self-absorbed millennials and the duo then go on a shooting spree.” That sounds like pure garbage. And then rather bizarrely, the report continues by saying that “Gordon did not want to focus on the larger metaphor of friendship between the two Vietnam vets and wanted to focus on the darker elements of the series,” but Apple (rightfully) balked which led to Leight departing the series. Though I couldn’t tell you what Apple’s “brand” is regarding the tone of its programming in general (because we know so little about it), it seems that they want to follow in Disney’s footsteps by (according to THR) “looking for aspirational programming, [wanting] to ensure the series was focused on the heart and emotion of the central friendship.”
As someone who is incredibly tired of grimdark television, I don’t see this as a bad thing. It also speaks to the fact that Apple is looking to define its brand a certain way with its original programming, something that other streaming services have struggled with (that includes Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon). At the same time, they must also be giving a lot of notes—perhaps too many. Apple TV+ (which itself is already styled the same as Disney+) has seen showrunner departures for The Morning Show, Amazing Stories, and Foundation. It also has You Think It, I’ll Say It on pause after scheduling issues saw star Kristen Wiig exit the series. And, it scrapped the dark drama Vital Signs from Dr. Dre.
So, they’re figuring things out. Apple isn’t in a position to be bothered much by contract penalties when it comes to not producing some of these series, or waiting to launch its service altogether. It’s a titan, and at this point it’s better to wait until they have a sense of what, exactly, they are offering. But the behind-the-scenes headaches are certainly numerous enough to take note of, as well as what that might suggest about Apple’s overall content strategy.
For now, getting rid of Bastards seems like the right call, both because of the odious subject matter and the leaning-in on the vigilante narrative of two angry old white men which, frankly, we could do with a lot of less of right now. But the series, which would be Gere’s biggest TV role, is now free to be picked up by other networks.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV