In the 15-months of its existence, Apple TV+ continues to carve out its niche alongside bigger streaming competitors with a robust slate of original programming that includes major talent — from Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon, M. Night Shyamalan and more — and big licenses like The Henson Company's Fraggle Rock and Peanuts.
At the streamer's Television Critics Association winter press day today, Apple TV+ introduced an eclectic array of returning and brand-new genre series including the second season of Mythic Quest, a new Stephen King-penned limited series, Lisey's Story, and a fantasy/musical from Lorne Michaels and Barry Sonnenfeld, Schmigadoon!
Having already released in 2021 sophomore seasons of their hit original genre shows, Servant and For All Mankind, the Apple TV+ original programming team provided reporters with first footage reveals in a sizzle reel featuring new scenes from their other returning 2021 series like See, Jason Momoa's dystopian sci-fi drama, and the game developer comedy, Mythic Quest (which returns May 7, 2021).
Mythic Quest, created by Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day and Megan Ganz, will create an imagined post-pandemic reality in its sophomore season, as the Raven's Banquet team return to the office to build a new expansion pack for their hit game.
In their panel for Season 2, executive producer David Hornsby (who also plays David Brittlesbee) said during real quaratine, the writers kept in touch with their Ubisoft consultants to get intel on how the gaming industry was adapting to the new normal. And their feedback changed some of the show's storytelling. "Initially, we had an episode with the game debuting at E3," Hornsby said. "But once the pandemic hit, they told us that no one is doing E3 anymore." The writers then scrapped that narrative thread for Season 2.
Co-creator McElhenny (who also plays Ian Grimm) also shared that as they tentatively prepared to go back into production, they were all very concerned about protecting F. Murray Abraham (who plays C.W. Longbottom) because of his age and susceptibility to COVID-19. He said they didn't want to be the show that got F. Murray Abraham sick. While Abraham was not enthused about the extra precautions - only because of his joy for the character and working on the show - he appreciated the creative work-arounds which included featuring Longbotton in the first half of Season 2 via Zoom and other virtual techniques. But McElhenny qualified, "In the second half of the season, [Longbottom] does come back. We just limited him to scenes with small amounts of people on camera."
In their 2021 sizzle reel, Apple TV+ also dropped a bit more footage from their upcoming sci-fi titles, including the as-yet-unscheduled adaptation of author Isaac Asimov's Foundation series starring Jared Harris, Lee Pace and Laura Birn. In fact, Harris lays out an epic monologue from the series as Lee Pace bestows us with his best futuristic smirk.
The streamer also revealed the first footage of their much-anticipated, Stephen King adaptation of his deeply personal book, Lisey's Story. The eight-episode, limited series is entirely written by King and executive produced by J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot. The fantasy/thriller stars Academy-Award winner Julianne Moore as Lisey, a widower haunted by increasingly unsettling events that make her delve into the more mysterious aspects of her late husband (Clive Owen) and their marriage. The series debuts in summer 2021.
And perhaps the most ambitious and weird of their new series is Schmigadoon!, a half-hour, fantasy-musical from Saturday Night Live's Lorne Michaels and Cecily Strong. It stars Strong and Keegan-Michael Key as a couple in a relationship that's on the brink of falling apart due to boredom. While attending a couple's retreat in the woods, they get lost and wind up in a magical town that looks like a Broadway back lot, full of residents always ready to belt out a steady stream of original musical numbers. Weirded out by the town, the pair try to escape but discover they have to find true love in order to go home. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (Pushing Daisies) with original music by Cinco Paul, it also stars Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, Fred Armisen and Dove Cameron. The six-episode first season will drop later in the summer of 2021.
During the show's panel, executive producer and star Cecily Strong said the series is meant to be a bit of a panacea to the global reality of the pandemic, racial tensions and natural disasters. "We're having fun with musical tropes," she said of the high-concept series. "Everything is like a horror show right now, and that's why we do comedy."
Creator and showrunner Cinco Paul added that the idyllic town of Schmigadoon is a widely diverse town which course corrects the racial issues inherent in golden era musicals and opens the series up to everyone who loves the genre. "It's an aspirational place that we wish we could live there," he said. "How we cast is a comment on things that were problematic of the era and we make them better. The show focuses on the positive with the intent to lift everything up."