Steven Spielberg’s long-awaited Amazing Stories anthology reboot is finally landing on Apple TV+ this Friday, but based on the first wave of reviews, you might want to pass. Apple sent out a screener of the first episode of Season 1 to a few news outlets. And so far, all the reviews have been overwhelmingly negative.
Amazing Stories became one of the most-hyped projects after Apple unveiled its streaming video service last March. Spielberg got up onstage to talk about his passion for the Amazing Stories brand and his goal to transport multigenerational audiences with compelling narratives.
With the talent Apple put behind the project, it seemed like Amazing Stories could shine as one of the best shows on Apple TV+. Now it sounds like the first season, comprised of just five episodes, will be a dud.
Amazing Stories, bad reviews
Josh Bell at CBR wasted no time going in on Amazing Stories for his review. The first episode of the show involves time travel. Bell says the twists and turns in the plot felt delayed or obvious. In the second paragraph of his review, Bell rips the episode with some brutal lines.
“The opening episode, ‘The Cellar,’ is a warmed-over version of a creaky Twilight Zone or Outer Limits premise,” he wrote. “It’s bland and forgettable, although far from terrible. It’s a basic time-travel love story that seems designed to appeal to Outlander fans, although there’s nowhere near the romantic intensity achieved on the popular Starz drama.”
What’s wrong with Amazing Stories?
Production problems with Amazing Stories could be a big cause for the lackluster first episode. Once Upon a Time co-creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis took over as showrunners after Apple removed Bryan Fuller from the project. Fuller reportedly wanted a darker tone for the show. That might be exactly what the Amazing Stories is lacking.
Amazing Stories reportedly had a budget of $5 million per episode but Bell says some of the sets look like they came straight from a direct-to-video Western. He also complains that the acting performances are dull and uninspired. Marshal Estes at The Spool echoed some of Bell’s complaints, saying the show is anything but amazing.
“The underdeveloped characters lead to underdeveloped performances,” Estes writes. “Everyone is serviceable in their roles, and O’Brien and Pedretti have decent chemistry together. Still, none of the principal cast has much need to stretch their talents and the supporting cast’s performances often delve into the cliched.”
Obviously it’s impossible to gauge a show just off one episode. Both reviews admit that the next four episodes could be absolute bangers. It’s not like every episode of Black Mirror is gold. But considering the mixed ratings Apple TV+ shows have been getting so far, it seems unlikely that this one will become a hit.