There’s a good chance most people finally (and probably reluctantly) subscribed to Apple TV+ after Ted Lasso‘s unprecedented acclaim in mid-2020, even if that meant adding to their ever-growing roster of streaming services. But the platform actually launched with big names like Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon (The Morning Show) and Jason Momoa (see) nine months before a mustachioed Jason Sudeikis propelled Apple TV+ into the content wars.
Apple TV+ is still mainly lauded for bagging wunderkind Ted Lasso (much like Netflix is known for Stranger Things or Hulu for The Handmaid’s Tale). By extension, it’s understandable to associate Apple TV+ with its creative comedies because there’s enough to celebrate with Dickinson, Mythic Questand more recently, The Afterparty. But the platform has found its true niche with eclectic and exciting dramas, which have stealthily overtaken comedies as the best reason to keep your subscription, particularly in 2022.
Apple TV+’s breakout dramas range from strong awards contenders like Severance and pachinko to hidden gems like the new seasons of Servant and For All Mankind. More recently, the streamer jumped on the true-crime bandwagon with the surprisingly stirring Black Bird. Churning out one unexpected sensation after another—each with an unflinching cast and unique narrative—proves the platform doesn’t just need to rely on superstars to salvage a shoddy script (yes, The Morning Show remains an actively terrible outlier).
The streamer’s risk-taking paid off this year with Severance, which could easily be mistaken as a workplace dramedy with a co-director like Ben Stiller and actors Adam Scott and Zach Cherry. Instead, the dynamic thriller deftly comments on corporate capitalism and the weariness of finding solace in a nine-to-five job. It successfully thwarts expectations (and allows Scott to break away from his beloved Ben Wyatt persona). And speaking of disruptive, Soo Hugh’s pachinko is equally evocative, flourishing with adroit camerawork and beautiful performances and turning a deeply personal story of Korean immigrants into a globally resonant drama.
pachinko isn’t the only book adaptation in 2022 further elevating Apple TV+’s drama standing. Slow Horses is old-school spy madness with a heavy helping of modern absurdity—no wonder it’s already renewed through season four. Elisabeth Moss gives yet another sharp performance in Shining Girls (a limited series that loves to zoom in on her face often), which revels in the confusing concept of a time-traveling serial killer. And Black Bird manages to stand out in the increasingly crowded true-crime space. Based on James Keene’s In With The Windthe show dials up the anxiety with enticing, conversational writing and Taron Egerton and Paul Walter Hauser deliver star turns as opposing criminals becoming faux friends.
Some of these new offerings have already earned a place on several best of lists and Emmy predictionsincluding at The AV Club. But it’s worth noting that the streamer’s returning shows are equally compelling. It’s quite a turnaround from the dramas during the early days at Apple TV+, which launched with TMS and seethen added Chris Evans’ Defending Jacob and Julianne Moore’s dull Lisey’s Story. Since then, though, gutsy and underrated shows have transformed Apple TV+ into the real deal. Look no further than Servanta deeply bizarre family horror series from producer M. Night Shyamalan.
Which brings us to Apple TV+’s crowning achievement to date: For All Mankind. Everyone on the planet should be watching Ronald D. Moore’s jaw-dropping alt-history space-race drama, which has flown under the radar since its premier on the streamer in 2019. Now in its third season (we’re recapping the show weekly ), FAM continues to aim high tracing the race by the US and Russia to reach Mars during the ’90s. Although centered around a socio-political event that binds the nation, the show has an astute understanding of human emotions. The visual effects also consistently pack a real punch.
Of course, not all of the dramas are going to stick the landing (sorry, Suspicion and WeCrashed), especially amid a glut of content from all directions. But Apple TV+ has mostly found glory, and hopefully its audience, thanks to subversive and singular dramas that are unlike anything else on TV right now.