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Will Summer 2021 Be Apple TV+'s Coming Out Party?

This could be a big summer for the oft-overshadowed streamer.
  • From the return of Ted Lasso to new shows from Rose Byrne, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Stephen King, Apple TV+ is poised for a break out summer.
    From the return of Ted Lasso to new shows from Rose Byrne, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Stephen King, Apple TV+ is poised for a break out summer.

    It's been over a year and a half since Apple launched their streaming television service, Apple TV+, casting it into the fray with already established brands like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. It did so at the forefront of a wave of new (and/or rebranded) arrivals to the streaming landscape, and in the 19 months since, its scattered successes have largely been overshadowed by the likes of Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Paramount+. Entering this summer, however, Apple TV+ is poised to break out in a way it hasn't thus far, with several high-profile premieres and at least once returning show that ranks among the most highly anticipated of the summer.

    This isn't to say that Apple TV+ hasn't had anything go right in its first year and a half. The platform scored its first Oscar nominations for its animated feature Wolfwalkers and the Tom Hanks submarine movie Greyhound. And although it was critically divisive, The Morning Show did exactly what a Jennifer Aniston/Reese Witherspoon show was supposed to do, which was capture a ton of attention (plus a SAG Award for Aniston and an Emmy for Billy Crudup). For All Mankind, the alternate-history series about the space race started quietly but has accumulated critical raves and word-of-mouth, with its just-completed second season being one of the most well-received shows of the spring. And the warm-hearted charms of Ted Lasso proved to be an unexpectedly huge crowd-pleaser in its first season. The series, which stars Jason Sudekis as an American football coach hired by an English football club to helm its ailing team became a feel-good pandemic fave, and its late-July return date is one of the most anticipated TV premieres of the summer.

    In addition to the more than half a dozen TV premieres it's got lined up this summer, Apple TV+ is also geared up to premiere the prize-winning film from this year's Sundance Film Festival, CODA. The film, directed by Sian Heder, is about a teenage child of deaf adults (hence the acronym of the title) who is torn between her own ambitions and her ties to home and the family business. It's set to premiere on August 13, and could be poised for an awards run if the reception is anything like it was at Sundance (not always a guarantee).

    As for the TV shows, there are seven shows of note that are either premiering or returning this summer that could help make this the Summer of Apple TV+. Here's a rundown:

    Lisey's Story

    From the get-go, one of the primary seling points of Apple TV+ has been its many deals with A-List talent to develop projects. One of those people is J.J. Abrams, who produced the sweet but underseen songwriter drama Little Voice. Now Abrams is producing the Stephen King adaptation Lisey's Story, and the cast and crew involved make it one of the most talent-rich shows of the year. Based on King's novel of the same name, Lisey's Story stars Julianne Moore as the titular Lisey, widow of a famous and prolific author (Clive Owen, who we'll see in flashbacks), and Joan Allen as Lisey's troubled sister Amanda. Also in the cast are Jennifer Jason Leigh (who previously starred in the Stephen King adaptation Dolores Claiborne), Dane DeHaan (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets), Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us), and Sung Kang (F9).

    Adding to anticipation for the miniseries is that all eight episodes are directed by Pablo Larrain, the Chilean director who helmed the Natalie Portman film Jackie. Late-era Stephen King can be hit and miss, but HBO did a pretty good job with The Outsider, and given the talent involved here, Lisey's Story is incredibly promising.
    Premiere Date: June 4

    Physical

    Any new TV series headlined by the great Rose Byrne would be a big deal no matter what. This is her first starring role in a series since she broke out opposite Glenn Close in the FX series Damages in the late Aughts. Set in the 1980s (which opens the door to all sorts of fun costumes, art direction, and soundtrack choices), Physical follows Sheila Rubin (Byrne) on her journey to self-discovery via the trendy world of aerobics. The dark comedy comes from showrunner Annie Weisman, who created the short-lived FOX sperm-donor-doctor series Almost Family, and previously wrote for shows like Desperate Housewives and Suburgatory. If all goes well, this could be a huge showcase for Byrne, who shined last summer as Gloria Steinem in the FX miniseries Mrs. America.
    Premiere Date: June 16

    Central Park

    While the first season of Central Park was overshadowed by both circumstance (the early months of the pandemic) and a casting controversy, the ambition on display in this animated musical comedy — about the family of the Central Park groundskeeper and the mean old rich lady who wants to bulldoze the park for condos — can't be denied. In the first season, the character of Molly Tillerman, tween daughter of a Black father and white mother, was voiced by white actress Kristen Bell, casting which came under fire. For season 2, Molly will instead be voiced by Emmy Raver-Lapman, who joins an insanely talented cast that includes Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom, Jr., Tituss Burgess, Daveed Diggs, Josh Gad, and Stanley Tucci. Bell will remain with the show for season 2, voicing a brand new character. The show was already renewed for a third season, months ahead of its Season 2 premiere, so clearly Apple sees big potential here.
    Return Date: June 25

    Schmigadoon!

    Speaking of musical comedies, Apple has a brand new one that should appeal to the musical-theater enthusiast in all of us (or, okay, most of us). The show's concept should be familiar to anyone who's seen the 1947 Broadway musical Brigadoon (or its 1954 film adaptation): a couple on a backpacking excursion come upon a hidden, magical town, in this case called "Schmigadoon," which exists within the milieu of Golden Age stage and screen musicals. Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key play the couple in question, who cannot leave Schmigadoon until they find true love. The series was created by Despicable Me screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, with episodes directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (The Addams Family; Men in Black). The cast surrounding Strong and Key is a veritable buffet of musical talent, including Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, Fred Armisen, Aaron Tveit, Ariana DeBose, Jane Krakowski, Dove Cameron, Ann Harada, and Jamie Camil.
    Premiere Date: July 16

    Ted Lasso

    After a first season that made America believe in kindness again, scored Golden Globe and SAG Award wins for Jason Sudekis, and blew everyone's mind with the fact that Hannah Waddingham also played the "Shame!" nun on Game of Thrones, Ted Lasso is returning for its second season. At the end of the first season, AFC Richmond got relegated to the Championship league, so Season 2 is when the comeback story begins. Joining the cast this season is actress Sarah Niles as a sports psychologist. No word yet on whether Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) will return to Richmond, but we can hope.
    Return Date: July 23

    Watch the Sound with Mark Ronson

    Documentary filmmaker Morgan Neville has made films about music stars from Keith Richards to Johnny Cash to Brian Wilson, most producing the Song Exploder TV series for Netflix. All of that seems to be part of the brew for this new music docuseries starring Oscar winning musician and producer Mark Ronson. The brief for the series promises a look into how emerging technologies help producers shape popular music and craft the perfect sound, giving viewers of Apple TV+'s dramas and comedies reason to stick around the app afterwards, or at least that's the hope.
    Return Date: July 30

    Mr. Corman

    If Rose Byrne's return to series TV after Damages isn't enough, how about Joseph Gordon-Levitt returning to series TV so many years after 3rd Rock from the Sun? The actor/writer/producer/director will be putting all of his hyphens to use on Mr. Corman, a half-hour dramady about a high-school teacher that is being described as "a deep cut into the days and nights of a public schoolteacher in the San Fernando Valley." The series is also set to star Debra Winger, Arturo Castro, Juno Temple, Jamie Chung, Logic, and Shannon Woodward. Gordon-Levitt last wrote/directed/produced the 2013 indie film Don Jon, in which he co-starred with Scarlett Johansson.
    Premiere Date: August 6

    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+, Central Park, Lisey's Story, Mr. Corman, Physical, Schmigadoon!, Ted Lasso, Watch the Sound with Mark Ronson