“Are you excited? It’s going to be amazing.” That’s the sentiment I was told over and over as I approached the Steve Jobs Theatre in Cupertino, California. Apple flew in journalists from all over the world, including myself, for the event at Apple Park, a campus which bears striking resemblance to the set of The Circle with the vibe of Disney World. The staff herding the estimated 1,000 attendees into the newly-built event space was unabashedly stoked about what we were about to witness. After all, rumour had it that Oprah Winfrey might make an appearance.
In theory, Apple’s March 25 event was about announcing new products—a task which, for most brands, consists of a PR release or sometimes a party for local industry and media personnel. But Apple launches have become must-watch events, with celebrity guests and musical performances, streamed live around the world. The look and feel of these distinctive launches has become instantly recognizable, with casually dressed execs strolling across an empty stage, delivering information carefully timed with graphics and promising that these changes will revolutionize how we live.
On Monday, rather than offering new hardware options, Apple revealed its plans for services ranging from its expanded Apple News platform to its foray into the world of entertainment with Apple TV+. In addition to hosting a larger array of existing network shows, Apple confirmed that, like Netflix and Amazon Prime, it is creating its own original entertainment content.
And that’s when things got wild. Yes, Oprah did show up—as did Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Momoa, Steve Carrell, Kumail Nanjiani and Big Bird. In fact, those were just the celebs who made it to the stage. Chris Evans, Rashida Jones, Jesse Pinkman, Jada Pinkett Smith and Ewan McGregor are all reportedly working with Apple on new content, and walked past me as we were exiting the theatre. I had zero chill.
In case you weren’t able to tune the live stream of Monday’s Apple Event, here are some of the nearly two dozen Apple original productions that had me cheering—and in some cases, had the crowd in Cupertino on their feet.
Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston’s The Morning Show
This show had my attention at the very mention of Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, and after seeing these two powerhouses pitch the concept of their show to the crowd at the Apple Event, I am convinced that it’s going to be big. The duo is co-starring in a new 10-episode TV series called The Morning Show, which Vulture describes as Apple’s “big prestige play.”
“In The Morning Show we pull back the curtain on the power dynamics between men and women in the high-stakes world of morning news shows,” explained Witherspoon. The show, helmed by Friday Night Lights’ Kerry Ehrin, will follow to two ambitious women working in media, and a “prominent male” played by Steve Carrell, who also joined Aniston and Witherspoon on stage.
Aniston, who in the Apple TV+ preview clip appears to play The Morning Show‘s host, added that through this setting, the show hopes to “take an honest look at the complex relationships between women and men in the workplace and we engage in the conversation people are a little too afraid to have unless they are behind closed doors.”
Kumail Nanjiani’s series about the immigrant experience
Let me just tell you, when The Big Sick‘s Kumail Nanjiani hit the stage and described his upcoming project, it had me feeling some things. Like Aniston and Witherspoon’s project, Nanjiani’s upcoming series, Little America, hits on themes and issues that are extremely relevant right now. This anthology series, he explained, is inspired by the true stories of immigrants in the U.S.
“When people defend immigration, they focus on the exceptionality of immigrants,” said Nanjiani, citing examples like Albert Einstein and Joseph Pulitzer. “While those stories are inspiring and valuable, we wanted to focus on the immigrants doing everyday life stuff.”
Nanjiani shared his own immigration story with the audience, talking about cooking Pakistani dishes for his friends, moving to Chicago and struggling to pay rent. And like Nanjiani, majority of the writers and directors involved in this project shared a personal connection with the subject matter, being either immigrants or the children of immigrants themselves.
“It’s not about telling, like, immigrant stories. These are human stories, that feature immigrants,” Nanjiani said. “When you get to know someone and start to see your struggles in their struggles, your passion in theirs, your problems in theirs, they stop being the ‘other.’”
He shared one story of a Indian couple who achieved their American dream of running a motel. When the couple suddenly got deported, their 12-year-old son, Kunal Sah, secretly ran the motel for 10 years on his own while simultaneously figuring out how to get his parents back to the U.S. His journey involved competing in the national spelling bee with the sole purpose of getting to talk to then-First Lady Laura Bush and ask for help. Sah came in 13th, says Nanjiani, and did ultimately meet Bush.
“Did Laura Bush help him? Tune in to find out,” said Nanjiani. And trust, I’m gonna.
HER ROYAL HIGHNESS OPRAH RETURNS
While the stars popped up one after the other, the lights darkening in between so the audience couldn’t see which A-lister was finding their mark on the stage, Apple took a different approach for their final celeb. Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced her as their final storyteller of the event, “one whose voice illustrates how powerful stories can change lives and change the world.” Enter, Oprah (and potentially the fastest standing ovation I have ever witnessed).
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“There has never been a moment quite like this one. We have this unique opportunity to rise to our best selves in how we use, and choose to use, both our technology and our humanity,” said Winfrey, explaining that she joined the Apple TV + platform because it would allow her to do what she does in “a whole new way.”
Specifically, she described two documentaries she has in the works. One, with the working title Toxic Labour, will explore the toll of sexual harassment, assault and violation in the workplace. The second is a currently untitled multi-part series that focuses on mental health. “What I know is that if we do our jobs right, we’re going to replace shame and we’re going to replace stigma with wisdom, with some compassion and with honesty,” said Winfrey.
In addition to her documentary projects, Winfrey also revealed that she will be expanding her already-powerful book club to include interviews between herself and authors that will be live-streamed around the world.
Through her partnership with Apple, Winfrey said that her goal is “to move together 1 billion-plus strong into a future of our own design, all connected through Apple.” I mean, that’s a lot, and throughout the presentation, Apple didn’t really explain how their new streaming platform will be all that different from other platforms like Crave or Netflix—but between Winfrey’s enthusiasm and the projects Apple TV + plans to start streaming, it’s safe to say that I’ll be tuning in this fall.