Apple wants to corner the market on squeaky-clean TV shows

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Don't expect to find much swearing, violence or sex in Apple's original TV shows.
Don't expect to find much swearing, violence or sex in Apple's original TV shows.
Photo: JESHOOTS.com/Pexels CC

Apple may have upward of 20 original TV shows in production, but don’t expect to find them filled with adult themes or material.

According to a new report, Apple is aiming for shows with broad appeal, which translates as no “gratuitous sex, profanity or violence.” While this rule won’t be an absolute, it does mean that only a small number of Apple TV shows will receive a TV-MA rating.

The Wall Street Journal says that this squeaky-clean approach caused a few problems for Apple’s original TV efforts. Originally, Cupertino approached content makers promising that the creative types would not need to censor their vision for TV shows. However, Apple seemingly changed its mind.

The report says that Tim Cook stepped in when Vital Signs, a semi-biographic drama based on Dr. Dre’s life, looked like it was becoming too violent. The show, in the works since 2016, was one of Apple’s earlier original TV efforts. It’s not clear the future direction of the project.

Apple TV shows avoid sex, violence, swearing, politics and religion

It’s not just violence, sex and swearing that Apple is opposed to, either. According to the WSJ, Apple is also taking steps to avoid venturing into territory that is considered overtly political or with religious overtones.

The type of humor in Apple’s Jennifer Aniston-Reese Witherspoon drama supposedly caused the ouster of its showrunner. Apple reportedly wants the show to be more “upbeat.”

The showrunner behind the Steven Spielberg-produced Amazing Stories reboot was also ditched. His vision for the series was reportedly “too dark” for Apple’s tastes. He wanted the show to have a tone like Black Mirror, but Cupertino preferred to make it more family friendly.

Former Sony executives Jamie Ehrlicht and Zack Van Amburg, who made their name with series like Breaking Bad, are said to be pushing for edgier content. They run Apple’s original TV efforts, but are answerable (obviously) to the likes of Cook.

Apple searches for more family-friendly content

For longtime Apple fans, the company’s “family friendly” approach to entertainment will be familiar. Steve Jobs famously took an anti-pornography stance on iOS, banning adult apps from the App Store.

This drew a mixed reaction from users at the time. Some supported Jobs’ stance to make the App Store a family friendly place, while others viewed it as a pro-censorship move not in keeping with Silicon Valley’s libertarian ethos.

Personally, I don’t hate Apple’s approach to original content in this instance. Sure, most of the TV shows I enjoy are more adult in nature, but I understand Apple’s concerns. Being able to play this content in Apple stores will mean not focusing too much on TV-MA material.

There’s also no doubt that companies like Netflix and HBO have already cornered the market on adult programming. That’s not to say there aren’t others that could be hits, but if Apple is able to produce shows with more of a family vibe, that could serve as a unique selling point.

The Wall Street Journal also says Apple pushed its first TV shows back to next March, although there is the possibility they will be delayed again.