Photo Source: Apple
The critics have really had a blast taking their shots at AppleTV+. Apple is an outsider and relative latecomer that showed up throwing around cash trying to get a new streaming video service off the ground, that was bound to happen. The fact that a couple of their high profile initial slate of shows got off to slow starts didn’t help, but things did at least stabilize over time.
The Morning Show did start off very slowly and was a bit too on the nose trying to cover “Me Too,” but it did actually come to a pretty strong close. I did watch it, but I’ll be honest in saying it wasn’t really my cup of tea, so I’m not the best judge. The few critics who stuck around actually took notice, but unfortunately for Apple, many had already dismissed it and moved on.
The fact that See had such an strange plot made it an easy target for negative reviews and broader statements about Apple’s ability to run a streaming service, as well. I can’t really speak to it, as I’ve never watched it. I frankly just didn’t have any interest in that one. I did watch For All Mankind and really thought it was good early on. That kind of show is right in my wheelhouse, but I still felt like it lost steam a bit near the end of season 1.
Other shows started and finished their first runs, with a few like Servant getting some attention, but I’ll be honest- in spite of a few big name show runners and actors, Apple’s new TV service didn’t keep me interested. I didn’t watch anything there for a few months. That changed recently.
I’ve been a fan of Chris Evans from before his days as a Marvel hero and I’ve always liked crime procedurals and true crime, so I knew Defending Jacob at least had the potential to be interesting. I just watched the 7th episode last night, the next to last in the limited run series, and so far I’m very impressed. This is the first show that Apple has released that has grabbed my attention and kept me coming back every week to watch the latest installment as soon as it’s released.
I’m no TV critic, but I think this show just has the best combination of interesting story and characters, strong cast and good direction. The cinematography is quite good as well, producing many haunting moments from the way the background and scenery is approached. This show definitely trends to the darker side, so if you are looking for something uplifting in a time of pandemic, Defending Jacob isn’t for you. However, if you like a good crime drama, then this show is well worth your time in my opinion. Nearly three decades of Law and Order shows and entire cable channels dedicated to true crime says that this is a very popular formula.
According to viewing numbers to this point, it looks like Defending Jacob is the closest to a hit that Apple TV+ has had. That doesn’t surprise me, as it’s been the only show I’ve seen there so far that’s been consistent enough to keep people coming back for more. If anything, this highlights the flaw in Apple’s preferred but archaic weekly delivery format. Unless a show is really strong and consistently good, it won’t hold onto people who are used to binging entire seasons or whole series on demand.
Defending Jacob is a strong show and AppleTV+’s first so far, but it isn’t quite seasons 1 and 2 of House of Cards or Game of Thrones. As good as it is, it’s not a service-defining mega hit that will bring in viewers en masse. However, it does show that Apple’s service is capable of success and that if the content is good enough, viewers will take notice. The only drawback for Apple here is that Defending Jacob isn’t an ongoing series. It will end next week with episode 8.
If you are looking for something good to binge over the Memorial Day weekend, I highly recommend this show. This is especially true if you are into crime dramas. While I hate that it will end after such a short run, I hope that Apple will take the success of this show and build on it. While long-running series are the foundation for streaming services, shorter run series like Defending Jacob can be very successful, as well.
However, I do hope Apple will consider mixing things up a bit more in terms of delivery in the future. Almost all of Apple TV+’s content has been released with a few episodes to start and then one new show per week after. Personally, I want so see a lot more complete seasons released at once on AppleTV+. For shows that aren’t quite as good, or at least as consistent as Defending Jacob, I know I am a lot more inclined to power through a dip in interest or quality and go to the end. You are going to lose a lot of viewers in those lulls, especially early on in shows when viewers aren’t invested in them, if you make them come back week-to-week.
Have you been watching Defending Jacob? If so, what do you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.