Apple Originals series Little America was rejected by a multiple networks before it finally found a home on Apple TV+. That’s according to the show’s executive producer Kumail Nanjiani.
“We pitched to a bunch of different places, and the truth is some of these more traditional outlets that have been around for decades, were a little hesitant about the show,” Nanjiani told Forbes.
Those same networks may be kicking themselves now. The critically acclaimed anthology series holds the highest Rotten Tomatoes score of any Apple Originals series. Little America seems like a shoo-in for awards, and Apple already renewed the show for a second season. But it may well not have happened.
The eight-episode anthology series tells true stories of immigrants in America. It was developed by Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, writers of The Big Sick, and Lee Eisenberg, writer and producer of the U.S. version of The Office.
Referring to other networks, Nanjiani said: “They were all stuck in their old ways. They were like, ‘Wait, you want to do a show that doesn’t have any stars, that has majority non-white leads on our very mainstream network?’ They were a little scared of a show that was an anthology show about immigrants coming to America. That’s how we pitched it to some traditional platforms, but they didn’t want to do it.”
Apple, by contrast, was very supportive of the project. “When we pitched Little America to them in the room, they almost immediately started selling themselves to us and trying to convince us why they should have it,” Nanjiani said. “The tone and spirit of the show were very much in line with what they wanted on their service.”
Why did networks reject Little America?
Nanjiani’s comments made me think after a conversation I recently had about Apple TV+. As I’ve written before, I’ve been a big fan of Apple TV+ so far in terms of quality. The person I was talking to said Apple Originals feel like rejects from other networks.
Little America suggests that we’re both right. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing for Apple. The company has come to the streaming TV market quite late, at a time when it’s more crowded than ever. Apple doesn’t own the big-name library of Disney+. It’s probably not going to be a first choice like Netflix, either.
However, that might serve Apple’s streaming video service well. As screenwriter William Goldman wrote in his 1983 memoir, Adventures in the Screen Trade, plenty of big properties were passed upon initially because they didn’t seem like the cream of the crop. Big hits like Indiana Jones and Star Wars faced similar rejections.
Nobody thinks Little America will become the next Star Wars. But there is something to be said for the fact that Apple, as a newcomer, doesn’t have first dibs on the obvious properties. Apple TV+ execs must find gems among the properties other networks don’t want to take a chance on. In other words, it has to think different. In this case, that paid off!