Apple has announced its entry into the scripted-series arena with a splashy announcement Wednesday: The company has ordered two seasons of a drama about a morning TV show starring, executive produced and co-owned (more on that in a few paragraphs) by Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston.
Apple also confirmed that it’s making a new version of the anthology series “Amazing Stories” from Steven Spielberg (a producer of the original 1980s show) and showrunner Bryan Fuller.
There’s no word yet on when either series will debut or exactly how Apple will distribute them (all at once or weekly). What seems clear, however, is that the announcement is intended to show Apple means business when it comes to making and distributing original content.
The company has made a handful of shows already, the most high-profile of which is probably a series version of “Carpool Karaoke,” the popular bit from “The Late Late Show with James Corden.” A competition show called “Planet of the Apps” came and went without making much of a dent in the culture.
The Witherspoon-Aniston show and “Amazing Stories,” however, is the kind of flag-planting Netflix did when it announced “House of Cards” in 2011. At the time it outbid several premium cable outlets for the show, which had big-name director David Fincher and a previously TV-averse star in (not-yet-disgraced) Kevin Spacey.
That’s the case for the morning-show drama as well. Witherspoon, Aniston and Michael Ellenberg, a former HBO executive whose company is producing the show, shopped it around starting in the summer, and Apple won the rights to it. Aniston’s and Witherspoon’s respective production companies will have ownership in the series as well, giving the duo a bigger stake in the project.
The show will be Aniston’s first regular series role since “Friends” ended in 2004, and Witherspoon’s first ever in an ongoing show. (She earned an Emmy nomination for her performance on HBO’s “Big Little Lies” earlier this year and shared in its victory for best limited series as one of its producers.) Heck, the show even has a “House of Cards” alum (Jay Carson) as its showrunner.
“Amazing Stories” follows an aspect of the Netflix playbook as well by updating a show with some nostalgia appeal: The original ran for two seasons on NBC in the mid-1980s, with Spielberg pretty heavily involved. There will probably be at least a niche audience interested in seeing the new version.
Apple’s announcement is a strong statement of intention, and it certainly has the potential — with millions of people already paying their monthly fees for Apple Music — to get these shows in front of a lot of viewers. Now there’s just the hurdle of, you know, making them good enough that people actually watch.