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Apple TV Plus reviews round-up: star-studded shows rated by critics

Dickinson on Apple TV Plus. Image Credit: Apple
Dickinson on Apple TV Plus. Image Credit: Apple
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple TV Plus, the new online streaming service from Apple, is officially here. 

Rather than building a big catalogue of movies and TV shows, like Netflix or Amazon Prime, Apple is banking on a number of star-studded original Apple TV Plus shows to draw in subscribers. 

Apple has pulled out all of the stops for its slate of original shows. There are top writers, directors, producers and A-list celebrities signed on for series spanning all genres, from documentaries to comedies and everything in-between. 

We've seen plenty of teaser trailers for the new shows over the past few months. But now that they're finally available to watch on Apple TV Plus, are the originals worth a watch? And will they be enough to draw viewers away from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and soon, Disney Plus?

We'll be releasing our Apple TV Plus review in due time – but for now we've rounded up the verdicts of critics from a range of online reviews to share their opinions for your viewing pleasure below, along with a link to each publication's full review for you to find out more.

Image Credit: Apple

Image Credit: Apple (Image credit: Apple)

Dickinson

IGN – 6/10

Alicia Lutes

"Dickinson comes into the world a higher-budget, New England-ized version of The CW’s Reign. A stylized and subversive take on the life of one of America’s greatest poets, digging deeper into the queerer, more electric life she likely lived, creator Alena Smith and her merry band of filmmakers do their best to create something new, remix a life in true Millennial style, only to end up falling short with the final product. With fantastic aesthetics and engaging actors to boot, it would be easy to see how viewers could get swept up by the fantasy of it all. However, Dickinson never realizes its full potential and ultimately feels like more of a slog than any show featuring Wiz Khalifa as Death with a Billie Elish/Lizzo soundtrack ever should."

Vox – 4 stars

Emily Todd VanDerWerff, Constance Grady, Alissa Wilkinson, and Allegra Frank

"Dickinson, about the life of goth teen lesbian poet Emily Dickinson, comes charging out of the gate all style and polish and flair. It’s an acid pop of a TV show dedicated to rescuing Emily Dickinson from her popular legacy as a lonely spinster hermit, and it’s willing to use as many anachronistic needle drops as it takes to do so."

The Verge – no rating

Julia Alexander

"Dickinson is so unafraid of being itself that I found myself enamored by it, flaws and all, by the middle of the first episode. It’s one of the only Apple TV Plus shows that I wanted to revisit after watching the first three episodes provided to critics. More importantly, it’s the show I can’t wait to see start popping up on Tumblr. I can see the fan art already, and the fluff-filled fan fiction stories populating on Archive of Our Own. That’s whom Dickinson is for; it’s not The Morning Show or See. It’s for people trying to find something they can have a silly time with, and Dickinson does that in an undeniably enchanting way."

Image Credit: Apple

Image Credit: Apple (Image credit: Apple)

The Elephant Queen

The Daily Dot – 3 stars

Brenden Gallagher

"There is much to admire about The Elephant Queen. The film follows the matriarch of an elephant family, Athena, as she searches for water and tries to keep her family together. Beautiful photography captures the elephants’ beauty and grandeur. The dedication of the crew is evident, as the documentary presents a slew of moving moments that must have required months to capture. The filmmaking also asserts a point of view, helping us to identify with the struggle of a small herd facing big problems."

Vox – 2.5 stars

Emily Todd VanDerWerff, Constance Grady, Alissa Wilkinson, and Allegra Frank

"If you like the Disney style of nature documentary — where the animals have names and someone describes their activities as if narrating a dramedy — The Elephant Queen will hit the same sweet spot. It’s the tale of a herd of elephants, led by one dubbed Athena, the titular queen. They live peacefully near a watering hole, coexisting with a bunch of other animals: dung beetles, terrapins, bullfrogs, and more."

Image Credit: Apple

Image Credit: Apple (Image credit: Apple)

For All Mankind

IGN – 9/10

Laura Prudom

"For All Mankind may not have the marquee names of The Morning Show or the big-budget genre auspices of See, but it's by far the most confident, fully-realized, and best-executed effort in the Apple TV+ launch slate, meticulously creating an alternate history that constantly keeps us guessing. Between its stellar cast and limitless possibilities, this is a brave new world that's worth revisiting."

Indiewire – Grade C

Steve Greene

"Across its opening season, this new Apple TV+ drama certainly does its best to rewrite the NASA history books. But that reimagining comes with a series of self-imposed narrative restraints. Presented with a bevy of options, “For All Mankind” spends most of its episodes presenting this new world in the least imaginative and most inert ways possible."

Vox – 3.5 stars

Emily Todd VanDerWerff, Constance Grady, Alissa Wilkinson, and Allegra Frank

"Leave it to Battlestar Galactica mastermind Ron Moore to create a utopia based on the premise that the Soviet Union was the first country to land on the moon, beating the US by a handful of weeks in the fateful summer of 1969. In Moore’s For All Mankind, the US doesn’t retreat from the Soviets’ victory, tail between its legs. Instead, it redoubles its efforts and pushes to make the American space program even more robust in the name of colonizing the solar system for the good ol’ stars and stripes."

The Morning Show

Image Credit: Apple (Image credit: Apple)

The Morning Show

The New York Times – no rating

James Poniewozik

"The Morning Show, the flagship offering of the new Apple TV Plus streaming service that arrives Friday, looks like good TV. Directed by Mimi Leder, it gleams on the screen.

"It sounds like good TV. It’s well-timed and brimming with serious purpose.

"It’s certainly cast like good TV. It collects Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell and Reese Witherspoon and a passel of fine character actors, and then just lobs Mindy Kaling and Martin Short at you like it’s not even a thing.

"But after three episodes, this tech company’s first venture into TV is good only at appearing to be good. It’s like something assembled in a cleanroom out of good-show parts from incompatible suppliers. Under the gleaming surface, as sleek and anodyne as an Apple Store, it is a kludge."

Salon – no rating

Melanie McFarland

"Aniston’s and Witherspoon’s talents receive ample showcasing in the form of exhilarating monologues and retorts tailored to reflect the audience’s #MeToo frustrations back at them. All of it make content for the inevitable Golden Globe and Emmy campaign For Your Consideration reels. A show or a film can get away with that kind of thing as long as the rest of the writing smoothly integrates these turns into the script. That does not happen here.

"That said, there’s a segment of the audience that enjoys Aniston and Witherspoon chewing scenery, or Carell walking the line between misunderstood nice guy and creep, which is basically what’s being asked of him here. Crudup, though, nails his portrayal of a shark-like network executive who plays so many angles at once as to make it impossible to fail anywhere but upward. Again, that’s not immediately apparent, but by the time Cory hits his stride one gets a sense of this show’s potential. You have to be willing to make it that far, though, and there are only so many hours we get in a life, let alone a day."

Variety – no rating

Daniel D'Addario

"It’s perhaps unsurprising that Apple, a bleeding-edge tech company whose streaming service represents TV’s vanguard, had so little sensibility for what morning TV means to its viewers or its practitioners. But it’s very odd that this company devoted to excellence, given a situation with so many potential points of entry, seems to have settled for so much less than it might otherwise have acheived. (Perhaps it’s proof positive that content really is different from other feats of engineering.) “The Morning Show,” in trying to sell all sides of its story without committing to telling a single one well, falls startlingly short. And, worst of all, there’s not a human worth caring about in sight."

Image Credit: Apple

Image Credit: Apple (Image credit: Apple)

See

Variety – no rating

Daniel D'Addario

"It’s perhaps to be applauded that, at its launch, Apple TV Plus doesn’t have a genre tentpole show based on an established intellectual property — its equivalent, say, of “The Mandalorian,” the “Star Wars”-universe series that will serve as further inducement for Disney Plus subscribers. Instead, Apple is trusting a mix of unfamiliar properties to win the day, a victory for those who say that repetitious franchise work is sapping Hollywood of innovation.

"And yet. See, a pure genre exercise originating from the mind of writer Steven Knight, sorely craves the sort of pure structural integrity that source material can provide. Spiraling away from narrative control as its first three episodes unreel, this series, about a post-apocalyptic future in which nearly everyone is blind, wastes the time of Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard, among others, on a story that starts from a position of fun, giddy strangeness and drags itself forward at a lugubrious pace. Source material would have provided structure (which many original properties have, but this one certainly does not). It also might have provided a control of tone. Knight, director/EP Francis Lawrence, and showrunner Dan Shotz have made a show whose elaborate look and grave tone aim for “Game of Thrones” but whose content is lower of brow and, sadly, of quality."

Vox – 1.5 stars

Emily Todd VanDerWerff, Constance Grady, Alissa Wilkinson, and Allegra Frank

"Now that Game of Thrones is over, what will fill the void? Definitely not See, a vapid, glacially paced attempt to woo fantasy fans in search of a new world to invest in. Despite containing several of the same elements that Game of Thrones fans found so enthralling — warring tribes; young people with special seeing powers; a scary, sexy, evil queen type; and even the presence of an angry, grunt-y Jason Momoa — See is missing the human drama and stakes that helped make Game of Thrones a juggernaut among a variety of viewers, even if they hadn’t read the source novels or cared about dragons before."