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Checking In With the Launch Shows From the Great Streaming Boom of 2019

Streamers like Apple TV+, Disney+ and HBO Max launched with a slew of high profile new shows. Which survived to tell the tale?
  • Photos: Apple TV+, Peacock, Paramount+, Disney+, and HBO Max
    Photos: Apple TV+, Peacock, Paramount+, Disney+, and HBO Max

    In case you hadn't noticed, this week sees the return of Apple TV+'s Servant, the latest series from 2019's great glut of streaming service launches to enter its third season. How can we already be on season three (or in some cases past it) when it seems like just yesterday that Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Paramount+ all launched?

    Of course, when we talk about the Class of 2019, we don't mean it literally. While Apple TV+ and Disney+ both launched in November 2019, HBO Max and Peacock debuted in 2020, and the Paramount+ rebrand didn't happen until 2021. Still, on a spiritual level, these platforms will always exist alongside one another as part of this great wave of streaming launches. And with each individual launch came the shows that launched along with it.

    So what's become of these shows — the ones that premiered on launch day or soon thereafter? Some have been huge successes, others failed, and a shocking number have existed for multiple seasons without making much of a ripple at all.

    APPLE TV+

    Launched: November 1, 2019

    Dickinson: As the first of Apple's launch shows to make it to its third season, Dickinson epitomizes the general Apple TV+ arc of initially underestimated but ultimately praised. A period comedy telling the story of poet Emily Dickinson with a surreal and modern sensibility, the series flummoxed some initially, but before too long its charms proved to be undeniable. In its three seasons, Dickinson earned a Peabody Award for excellence in television as well as a chorus of critical support that only grew louder. Although the show came to a close with its third season, one hopes its creativity and youthful energy will inspire Apple to go in that direction with further shows.

    The Morning Show: It's almost impossible to know how to evaluate The Morning Show, a star-studded series (Aniston! Witherspoon! Carell!) that was greeted with mostly bad reviews at the very beginning before gaining an almost cult-like drumbeat of critics and fans who seemed to recognize that even if The Morning Show wasn't exactly good, it was terribly entertaining. Then it got nominated for a bunch of awards, including wins for Jennifer Aniston at the SAG Awards and Billy Crudup at the Emmys. They added Julianna Margulies for season two and heralded COVID with a sneeze at the end of the season two premiere, at which point the reviews took a nosedive as even critics who were there for the insanity began wondering just what the hell this show was trying to pull. And yet, The Morning Show was recently renewed for a third season, and with maybe the exception of Ted Lasso, it remains Apple's most watercooler-y show.

    Servant: With its upcoming third season, Servant epitomizes Apple TV+ in a different way than Dickinson or The Morning Show. And not exactly in a way that flatters Servant. When Apple launched, it boasted creative agreements with a host of top-tier talent, but for every Ted Lasso-style unexpected success, there have been three shows with A-List talent attached that seemed to make zero impact. Perhaps none more so than the M. Night Shyamalan-created Servant, a work of psychological horror that has all but unfolded in secret over its first two seasons.

    For All Mankind: Of all the shows that Apple TV+ launched in its first two months, For All Mankind may well turn out to be the greatest slow-burn success of the bunch. It's already released two seasons, and was renewed for its third just ahead of the second-season premiere. The series, from creator Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica), Matt Wolpert, and Ben Nadivi, is a speculative fiction about a world where the USSR beat the Americans in the race to the moon but the space race continued in a far more ambitious tenor. After a first season that was received with mostly muted praise, the critical voices were much louder in support of the second season, an evolution best epitomized by Vox critic Emily VanDerWerff, who declared the first season "deeply watchable" but also slow and lacking good character storytelling, while by the second season she was calling it her favorite TV drama. This was reflected elsewhere, including Best Drama nominations from the Critics Choice and Television Critics Association, as well as a Saturn Award nomination for Best Science Fiction Series. For All Mankind seems destined to be on every "Best TV Show You're Not Watching" list for as long as it lasts.

    See: Did you know that there's a show starring Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard about a futuristic world where everybody is blind, that it's already aired two full seasons, and that it's been renewed for a third? Moreso even than Servant, See might be the quintessential invisible Apple TV+ show: star-studded, high-concept, but ultimately low impact.

    Truth Be Told: Okay, strike that, THIS is the quintessential invisible Apple TV+ show. Did you know there's an athology drama starring Oscar winner Octavia Spencer as a true-crime podcaster who gets caught up in solving crime, and that it's starred the likes of Aaron Paul, Lizzy Caplan, and Kate Hudson?? Its third season will premiere at some point in 2022, which means that all six scripted series that Apple launched in its first two months of existence will have made it to third seasons.

    DISNEY+

    Launched: November 12, 2019

    The Mandalorian: When Disney+ launched, there were promises of big, splashy Marvel Cinematic Universe series down the road, and Disney and Pixar animated films that would land on the platform in the months and years to come, but it was Disney's Star Wars franchise that got the streaming service launched on the right foot. The Mandalorian was a big hit with critics and garnered respect in a way that was certainly not guaranteed when the idea of a Star Wars TV offshoot was first announced. Two seasons later, the series has won 14 Emmy Awards alongside a slew of other prestigious honors, and is spinning off into further Star Wars stories. The third season is expected to launch this fall.

    High School Musical: The Musical: The Series: The other scripted series that Disney+ launched with was the levels-upon-levels meta comedy/musical series based on the High School Musical movies. This one benefitted mightily from star Olivia Rodrigo's pop success, as well as the teen and tabloid interest in her relationship and breakup with co-star Joshua Bassett. Disney renewed the series for a third season last September with Rodrigo still on board.

    HBO MAX

    Launched: May 27, 2020

    Love Life: Queen of streaming launches Anna Kendrick starred in the first season of HBO Max's launch-day romantic drama Love Life. That first season chronicled the romantic highs and lows of Kendrick's character of the course of a number of years, and while it wasn't a smash success, the show did attract a bit of attention. Much better reviewed was the second season, which featured a new central character played by William Jackson Harper. We're still awaiting word whether the show will return for a third season.

    PEACOCK

    Launched: July 15, 2020

    Brave New World: This long-awaited adaptation of the Aldous Huxley novel had been in development for years, having bounced around within the NBC Universal family from Syfy to USA before ultimately premiering with the launch of Peacock. Featuring a spiffy and gorgeous cast that included Downton Abbey's Jessica Brown Findlay, Solo's Alden Ehrenreich, and Game of Thrones's Harry Lloyd, the show's outlook certainly seemed promising. Unfortunately, the reviews were pretty bad, and by the end of October, Peacock announced the show's cancelation after one season.

    Paramount+

    Launched: March 4, 2021

    The Real World Homecoming: During its previous iteration as CBS All Access, shows like The Good Fight and Star Trek: Discovery flourished, but if we're restricting to purely P+, the rebranded platform launched with the much-anticipated The Real World Homecoming: New York, which not only lived up to expectations but in retrospect seems to have served as a kind of mission statement for the platform, given how much it's continued to capitalize on Gen X nostalgia for the old MTV brand. Since the launch, Paramount+ has aired two seasons of The Challenge: All-Stars and is currently airing a second season of The Real World: Homecoming in Los Angeles.

    Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+, Peacock, Brave New World, Dickinson, For All Mankind, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Love Life, The Morning Show, The Real World Homecoming, See, Servant, Star Wars: The Mandalorian, Truth Be Told