Sunday, 21 April 2024

APPLE TV+ offers a slate of original programs for new year

In the world of streaming services, Apple TV+ may be considered a relative newcomer that had to survive in its formative years the disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

Of course, last year’s strike by actors and writers in the entertainment industry posed even more challenges for production of new movies and television programs, affecting all facts of the business for streaming services.

A sign of recovery and good health is that Apple TV+ recently highlighted new programs at the winter press tour of the Television Critics Association, where critics from around the nation gathered to learn about new series.

Kicking off a full day of panels, Rita Lee Cooper, Head of Communications and Publicity for Apple Worldwide Video and Apple TV+, noted that limited series “Masters of the Air” from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, was just one of their “high-quality, culture-moving Apple Originals.”

A sure mark of continuing quality programming arrives with the historical drama “The New Look,” a 10-episode drama that tells the fascinating story of how fashion icon Christian Dior and his contemporaries in Paris navigated the horrors of World War II during the Nazi occupation and then the- post-war years.

Inspired by true events and filmed exclusively in Paris, the first episodes focus on the tyranny of the Nazi subjugation of life in the French capital where the Vichy government collaborated with the German enemy.

Emmy Award winner Ben Mendelsohn’s Christian Dior weaves a narrow path of having to reluctantly accommodate the occupiers with fashionable clothes for the spouses of German officers headquartered at the Ritz Hotel.

Meanwhile, Dior’s younger sister Catherine (Maisie Williams) was active in the French Resistance, and as the days of the Nazi occupation of Paris near an end, she’s captured by the Gestapo and shipped off to a concentration camp until being liberated by Allied forces.

A parallel story involves Juliette Binoche’s Coco Chanel, who ends up living at the same hotel with the high-ranking Nazi officers and having an affair with German diplomat Baron Hans von Dincklage (Claes Bang).

Due to collaboration with the Nazis, Chanel’s reign as the world’s most fashion designer is put into jeopardy, and she goes into exile in Switzerland after the war for nearly a decade before returning to Paris.

During the war, Dior is connected to the fashion house of Lucien Lelong, working with the eponymous owner (John Malkovich), before rising to prominence on his own with groundbreaking, iconic designs.

Besides the wartime drama, “The New Look” centers on the saga of Dior’s equals and rivals from Chanel to Balmain, Givenchy, Balenciaga, Pierre Cardin, and others reviving Paris as the fashion capital after the war.

During the press conference, John Malkovich observed that Lelong’s “principal importance in the series is that he was someone very involved with keeping the French fashion industry in France, in Paris, and not in Berlin.”

Another historical drama is the eight-episode “Franklin,” the thrilling story of one of the greatest gambles of Benjamin Franklin’s (Michael Douglas) career.

At age 70, without any diplomatic training, Franklin convinced France, an absolute monarchy, to underwrite America’s experiment in democracy. A persuasive character with an extraordinary career and life, Franklin was a decisive figure on the world stage.

As Michael Douglas observed at the press tour, Franklin’s undercover trip to France to get support was driven by the fact that “we desperately needed them to supply us with weapons and cash and everything.”

By virtue of his fame, charisma, and ingenuity, Franklin outmaneuvered British spies, French informers, and hostile colleagues, all while engineering the Franco-American alliance of 1778 and the final peace with England of 1783.

Douglas remarked that Franklin was “a little bit of a philanderer, liked to imbibe, big flirt, and yet, had a wonderful ability in terms of his idea of negotiating which was sort of a seduction.”

The essence of “Franklin” was not so much a history lesson, according to Douglas, but more a story of “the intrigue and the gamesmanship” that was part of the gamble without which Franklin’s eight-year French mission would not have resulted in America winning the Revolution.

The Apple TV+ schedule is not all about historical dramas, but the upcoming “Manhunt” that premieres on the Ides of March (that would be the 15th) has nothing to do with the assassination of Julius Caesar, but sadly it’s about the killing of one of our greatest presidents.

Based on the bestselling non-fiction book by James L. Swanson, “Manhunt” is a conspiracy thriller about one of the best known but least understood crimes in history, the astonishing story of the hunt for John Wilkes Booth in the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

In the role of John Wilkes Booth, star Anthony Boyle noted that since he grew up in Ireland, his introduction to the character was “through an episode of the ‘Simpsons’ where Bart plays” Booth and says “Hasta la vista, baby.” Fortunately, he and others did a lot of serious research.

Apparently, Apple TV+ offers a free seven-day trial.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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