20 Apple TV+ Shows That Make the Streaming Service Worthwhile

20 Apple TV+ Shows That Make the Streaming Service Worthwhile

This day was inevitable. The company that’s made nearly everything in our lives better has now done the same for what we watch on TV. Apple threw its hat (and its $200 billion+ purse) into the steaming wars fight when it launched its subscription streaming service Apple TV+ on November 1, 2019. Apple CEO Tim Cook described Apple TV+ as a “gift to our users,” and they spared no expense. Anyone with a new Apple product capable of streaming Apple TV+ (iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV) got access to the company’s growing library of TV shows and movies free for a year. Even without the free trial, the service was, and still is, only $4.99, half the price of Netflix’s lowest subscription tier. But they really showed their confidence in Apple TV+ by putting billions towards making the best Apple TV+ shows.

The company reportedly paid a ridiculous $240 million of the rumored $6 billion it spent on its initial slate of shows to launch the service on two seasons and 20 episodes of their morning TV drama The Morning Show, starring heavyweights Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, and Reese Witherspoon. And it’s been reported it plans to pay Ted Lasso star Jason Sudeikis $1 million per episode for the upcoming third season of the show. Luckily, Apple wasn’t only writing checks; they were producing hits. Ted Lasso won seven Primetime Emmy Awards in 2021 and is widely regarded as one of the best shows on television. The Morning Show has racked up seven Golden Globe Awards in its first two seasons and won Apple TV+ its first Emmy Award in September 2020, less than a year after the streamer first debuted. But money and awards alone didn’t make Apple TV+ a streaming supremacy contender; its ambition did.

Apple TV+ tackled the disillusionment of immigrants chasing the American dream (Little America) and the perils of youth basketball (Swagger). The first starring TV roles in years for Award-winning actors Samuel L Jackson (The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray), Claire Danes (The Essex Serpent), Anne Hathaway and Jared Leto (WeCrashed) came courtesy of Apple TV+. It’s been less than three years, but Apple TV Plus’s impressive catalog of shows is as good as any streaming service’s offerings over the same time, and we decided to rank the 20 best Apple TV Plus shows you should be streaming now.

20

Greatness Code (2020-)

There is no cheat code for greatness, but Apple TV’s Greatness Code feature digestibly short episodes centered around some of the world’s best athletes telling untold stories of moments that defined their careers. NFL legend Tom Brady’s “perfect” game, NASCAR phenom Bubba Wallace’s barrier-breaking race, and world-class Paralympic swimmer Scout Bassett’s mental health journey o championship glory are a few tales of triumph from Greatness Code that will flood you with the will to win.

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19

The Shrink Next Door (2022-)

How can you go wrong with Anchorman buddies Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd in a dark comedy about a therapist and a patient mix their personal lives to an unhealthily unprofessional degree? You can’t. Based on the eponymous podcast hosted by veteran journalist Joe Nocera, Rudd plays Ike Herschkopf, a manipulative psychiatrist who has spent 30 years inserting himself in every facet of his gullible patient Marty Markowitz’s (Ferrell) life and billing him every step of the way. The show has a dynamite cast, including the irreverent Kathryn Hahn and scene-stealing Casey Wilson, who help The Shrink Next Door enter the upper echelon of Apple TV+ shows.

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18

The Essex Serpent (2022)

If you see Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston are on the same show, block out a few hours of your life and prepare to dedicate it to whatever they’re doing together on screen. The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry’s eponymous novel, is a six-part limited series exploring what fear exposes in us all when a mythical serpent everyone in Essex is terrified by, and Cora Seaborne (Danes) has come to investigate. Hiddleston plays pastor Will Ransome with the emotional depth of a man trying to reconcile his faith in God with the religion-based persecution his followers level against Cora, a woman he falls in love with while he’s still married. Excellent casting inspired writing, and two lead actors who have carried their own series make The Essex Serpent a shoo-in for award season.

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You know Rob McElhenney from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but once you start watching Mythic Quest you may not be able to think of him as anyone other than the narcissistic video game magnate Ian Grimm ever again. Ian is very, very different from the Mac we know from Sunny. However, the show—more of a traditional sitcom than Sunny but still quite edgy— is very well made and, most importantly, is very hilarious. Lots of laughs and a great cast, but a show you’ll want to follow with characters you’ll grow to care for. – Evan Romano

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16

The Afterparty (2022-)

Fans of Knives Out and Only Murders in the Building should look no further than The Afterparty, a star-studded (Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, Ilana Glazer, Ben Schwartz, and more) series that will have you both laughing and theorizing at the same time. Christopher Miller (of the Lord & Miller duo that brought us Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and 21 Jump Street, among other projects) is the primary writer and director. It’s great stuff, and we’re eager to see how this story evolves over time.- Evan Romano

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A Social Security disability lawyer in Kentucky helping people get disability benefits doesn’t scream must-see TV until you add corruption, destroyed lives, and porn stars. The Big Conn tells the true story of how flashy disability lawyer Eric C. Conn committed the biggest federal fraud in US history when he stole half a billion dollars from the US Social Security Administration. On the surface, the four-part docuseries is an indictment of how Conn grew into a mythical figure in Kentucky thanks to the monthly vacations, web of marriages, and lavish homes Conn afforded by defrauding the U.S. government and putting benefits that were saving lives in jeopardy. But, The Big Conn sucks you in deeper as it lays out how Conn’s con (no pun intended) was easy to stop and only wasn’t because of ineptitude by the government, making you wonder: who’s the real villain in this story?

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Swagger is the closest we’ve gotten to a proper look into our upbringing of two-time NBA champion and notoriously private Kevin Durant. Loosely based on the life of the Brooklyn Nets superstar, Swagger delves into the trials and tribulations of youth basketball through the experiences of basketball prodigy 14-year-old Jace Carson (Isaiah Hill) as he faces off against more competition than teenagers coming for his spot as the #1 player the DMV. Straight Outta Compton’s O’Shea Jackson Jr continues his acting maturation as Jace’s mentor Ike “Icon” Edwards, a man seeking redemption for his own basketball failings by leading others like him down the right path. Don’t let the ostentatious title fool you; Swagger is deeper than the flash.

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Technological advancements are typically a nimble balance of risk vs. reward, and the sci-fi thriller Dr. Brain blurs the line in a mind-melding investigative tale. After brain scientist Sewon Koh’s (Sun-Kyun Lee) family is mysteriously murdered, he looks for clues into the murders by syncing his brain to the deceased to search through their memories. Lee comes from Parasite fame, and similar to the Academy Award-winning film, Dr. Brain takes you down a trippy rabbit hole to a sentimental core that anyone who has lost a loved one can relate to.

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2022 has been the year of the scammer show, and with WeCrashed, Apple TV+ landed themselves one of the better ones. Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway are both very good as husband and wife Adam and Rebecca Neumann in a show that details the rise and fall of WeWork. – Evan Romano

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Based on Min Jin Lee’s critically-acclaimed epic novel of the same name, Pachinko is one of Apple TV+’s best shows in recent years. With gorgeous cinematography, dedicated acting, and an ambitious attempt to tell the story of a multi-generational family’s love and loss, Pachinko is a must-watch for everyone. It’s one of the best shows of 2022. – Milan Polk

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In this day and age where true crime podcasts have helped break 40-year-old cold cases, Truth Be Told is a star-studded reminder of the real-life stakes of your daily podcast listening. Octavia Spencer plays Poppy Parnell, an investigative reporter behind the true-crime podcast, whose work as a New York Times journalist helped convict Warren Cave (Aaron Paul) of murder decades ago. In Season 1, Parnell’s guilt for possibly placing an innocent man in prison catalyzes her reinvestigation into the case through her podcast and uncovers terrifying secrets no one saw coming. Even when nothing shocking is happening on screen, Paul, Spencer, Mekhi Phifer, Lizzy Caplan, Ron Cephas Jones, and Kate Hudson deliver acting performances that will make you instinctively jump to the next episode to see what embarrassment of acting riches you’ll be gifted with this time.

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The American dream isn’t a universally idyllic goal, and the anthology series Little America uses the stories of immigrants to bring the nuanced truth of the American experience to life. Based on true stories, Little America centers around the disparate experiences of immigrants trying to make lives in America while dealing with integration into a foreign culture, disillusionment with the promise of a better life, and maintaining their identity. The poignancy of Little America lies in its unadulterated honesty that almost demands empathy from its viewers. One Indian family lives in a small Utah motel they manage while seeking political asylum, only for the parents to have to leave their young son while returning to India. In these wrinkles of the idea of the perfect America dream, Little America sets itself apart from any other Apple TV series to date.

Everyone grieves the loss of a loved one in their own ways. If M. Night Shyamalan is involved in the grief, as he is as showrunner of the psychological thriller The Servant, you can rest assured it will be a nightmare you won’t want to wake up from. The Servant is about bereaved parents, Dorothy Turner (Lauren Ambrose) and Sean Turner (Toby Kebbell), who deal with the loss of their thirteen-week-old son, Jericho, who treat a reborn doll as a replacement for their own child after it brings Dorothy out of a mental breakdown she suffered following Jericho’s death. That alone is intriguing enough to support multiple seasons of great television. Still, then the couple invites Leanne Grayson (Nell Tiger Free), a young nanny who is creepily comfortable cradling and walking an inanimate object like an actual child. You have the makings of the most undeniably twisted shows Apple TV offers.

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When you can create a cerebral dark comedy out of an aerobics instructor from the ‘80s, you likely will have yourself a hit. Mrs. America’s Rose Byrne stars as overworked and under-appreciated mother and wife Sheila Rubin as she fiercely reclaims her autonomy and identity as an aerobics instructor who creates a lucrative business of home video aerobic instructions. Byrne does a stellar job of balancing her internal demons (eating disorder and a naggingly pessimistic internal dialogue) with the pristine image she hopes the world sees while helping other women find happiness in their own bodies. Physical excels at taking the ostensibly mundane (suburban wives taking aerobics classes doesn’t scream must-see TV) and presenting astute and empathetic commentaries on body image and self-worth.

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5

The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray (2022)

You can now add 93-year-old suffering from dementia trying to solve his nephew’s death to the never-ending list of roles Samuel L. Jackson can effortlessly make audiences love. Over the course of six episodes, The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray finds Jackson playing Ptolemy Gray, a man whose memory is being eroded until Dr. Rubin (Walter Goggins) presents him with a miraculous treatment helping Gray to remember everything he began to forget. Outside of a captivating plot exploring the liberating yet oppressive hold memories have on us, the casting is impeccable, with Show Me A Hero’s Dominique Fishback shining as Robyn, a young woman who becomes Gray’s aid through this special time in his life. Don’t let The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray not receiving any Golden Globes or Emmy Awards dissuade you from treating yourself to one of the best performances in Jackson’s unmatched career.

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Elisabeth Moss is the queen of warped horror TV shows based on strong women trying to escape the oppressive clutches of psychotic men, and Shining Girls is all that. Based on Lauren Beukes’s sci-fi thriller novel The Shining Girls, the series follows Kirby Mazrachi (Moss) as she tries to uncover the serial killer who assaulted her and a slew of other women across decades, only to find out he may be evading detection by traveling through time. There are mysteries within a good ol’ fashion detective search, all of which ensure you won’t bore yourself out by predicting what happens next. When Stephen King, the foremost authority on all things spooky, praises a show for being “a novel for the eyes and the mind,” you know you have a show no one should miss.

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Tehran is the perfect fix if you’re missing the heart palpitations Carrie Mathison’s covert missions on Homeland induced. Mossad agent Tamar Rabinyan, played deftly by newcomer Niv Sultan, is an undercover Israeli operative forced to navigate through the capital of Iran alone while trying to stop the country from obtaining an atomic bomb after her original mission failed. She’s trying to escape the detection of a Revolutionary Guard investigator— Faraz Kamali (Shaun Toub)— while trying to stop a nuclear threat while being close to death at any moment. Add in a sterling performance from Glenn Close in Season 2, who learned the Iranian dialect Farsi for her role as psychologist and undercover agent Marjan Montazeri, and it’s clear how this show became an international hit.

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Are you ready for a weird recipe? Because Severance is part Lost, part Being John Malkovich, and part Eternal Sunshine—with a tiny little bit of Fight Club thrown in. Perhaps the buzziest show of 2022, Severance will get you on the hook with its unique and stunning aesthetic (Ben Stiller—yes, that Ben Stiller—directs the hell out of most of the series) and keep you on the edge of your seat with its incredible cast and engaging story. – Evan Romano

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If you somehow haven’t seen Ted Lasso yet, you’ve almost certainly heard of it: the show won 7 Emmys in 2021 and is poised to continue its dominance. The show stars Jason Sudeikis as the titular American Football coach who finds himself coaching a different kind of football across the pond. Sudeikis is perfect in the role, but his costars aren’t too shabby themselves; top to bottom, Ted Lasso seems destined to be a comedy classic.- Evan Romano

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