Apple TV Plus has really been on a roll this year, releasing a number of excellent series. If you’re new to the service or haven’t dug into it much, you may be unsure where to start.
Fortunately, Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab) can provide some guidance. The reviews aggregator issues scores for movies and shows based on what critics and audiences are saying. Generally, you can count on the quality of titles that are certified “fresh.”
Even better, though, are the shows that gain the equivalent of an A grade — a 90 percent score or higher. This year, Apple TV Plus has released seven series with that achievement. Check out what makes them so great, then watch them with an Apple TV Plus subscription. (opens in new tab)
A comedy booker’s dream lineup anchors this Christopher Miller/Phil Lord joint, directed by Miller himself. Tiffany Haddish plays a detective called to a murder scene at the afterparty of a high school reunion. That party takes place at the house of Xavier (Dave Franco), a famous pop/movie star who is not very well-liked by his former classmates. So, when Xavier dies, everyone becomes prime suspects in the investigation.
Each episode features a retelling of the night in a different style from the perspective of one of the characters. The performances by Sam Richardson, Ilana Glazer, Ben Schwartz, Ike Barinholtz, Zoë Chao, John Early, and Jamie Demetriou will leave you rolling on the floor. In this case, crime really does pay … in laughs.
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times calls the show “a witty satirical experiment so entertaining I’d be in favor a second season with a whole new reunion-murder.” The critic is getting his wish with The Afterparty season 2.
Genre: Murder mystery/comedy
Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%
The late Ray Liotta turns into a final, masterful TV performance in this true crime thriller based on James Keene’s autobiographical novel. He’s in a supporting role as a decorated policeman whose son Jimmy (Taron Egerton) has turned out to be a disappointment. The former high school football hero is now facing 10 years in minimum security prison.
Jimmy has a chance to avoid time behind bars, but it’s a dangerous gambit. He must enter a maximum security facility for the criminally insane and befriend suspected serial killer Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser), in a bid to get Larry to confess to murdering a string of girls. But Jimmy’s freedom could come at the steep price of his own life.
The limited series is the latest entry in the burgeoning true crime drama genre. The acting truly elevates it above the crowd, as Empire Magazine’s John Nugent (opens in new tab)wrote, “It’s the performances, especially from Paul Walter Hauser and Ray Liotta, that really make Black Bird sing.
Genre: true crime drama
Rotten Tomatoes score: 99%
For All Mankind season 3
One of the best shows you’re probably not watching blasts off for another exciting season of space thrills and Earth-bound intrigue. For All Mankind’s premise reimagines history, by having the Soviets beat the Americans to the moon in 1969 and continuing the space race.
For All Mankind season 3 focuses on the competition to reach Mars, which sees a new entrant — a private tech company founded by Dev Ayesa (Edi Gathegi). He’s sort of the alternate history version of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Meanwhile, over at NASA, the same players are in the mix, including Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) and Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall), who are vying to lead their mission.
Season 3 achieved that rarity, a perfect Rotten Tomatoes score (so did season 2, while season 1 has 75 percent). USA Today’s Kelly Lawler (opens in new tab) deems the show a “shining star,” while Ed Power at The Daily Telegraph labels it an “unheralded masterpiece.”
Genre: Science fiction/historical drama
Rotten Tomatoes score: 100% (season 1: 75%, season 2: 100%)
The adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s bestselling novel is a sweeping historical saga that chronicles the hopes and dreams of a Korean immigrant family across four generations. The story is set in multiple timeframes and locations and told in three languages (Korean, Japanese and English).
It all starts in a small fishing village during Japan’s occupation of Korea in the 1920s. As a teen, Sunja engages in an impetuous romance that ultimately takes her to Osaka. In 1989, the older Sunja (played by Oscar winner Youn Yuh-Jung of Minari) still lives there with her son. When her high-powered grandson arrives from New York City for a business trip, he grapples with still-prevalent ethnic hostility, while Sunja reflects on the difficult journey that brought her to this moment.
John Doyle at Globe and Mail (opens in new tab) writes, “Pachinko is breathtaking in almost every department. Epic in scope but intimate in focus, it is easily not just one of this year’s great dramas; it stands out as among the best of the past few years.”
Genre: Historical drama
Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%
The Black Mirror-esque drama stars Adam Scott as Mark, a middle-manager at the mysterious Lumon Industries. The company’s employees undergo a procedure called “severance,” which surgically divides their work memories from their personal memories. It’s a creepy, high-tech solution to an imbalanced work/life balance.
At work, the “innies” push papers and deal with the never-ending bureaucracy. As soon as they clock out, they become “outties” who live as if it’s the weekend all the time. Mark is complacent, but his team’s harmony is disrupted when a new member arrives. Helly (Britt Lower) asks too many questions, which leads Mark to wonder what’s really going on at Lumon.
Severance has been hailed by critics as one of the best shows of 2022. The Boston Globe’s Matthew Gilbert (opens in new tab) calls it “brilliantly unsettling, with captivating lead performances by Adam Scott and Patricia Arquette.”
Genre: Science fiction psychological thriller
Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%
Gary Oldman headlines a dark comedy/thriller that could rightly be called Tinker Tailor Soldier Failed Spy. His Jackson Lamb is an intelligence officer who’s “gone to seed” — washed up, broken down, past his prime. He oversees Slough House, an administrative purgatory filled with other disgraced agents.
The newest “slow horse” is MI5 agent River Cartwright (Jack Lowden), who is exiled for botching an operation. He joins the ranks of paper pushers who try to ignore their lack of prospects and Lamb’s acidic quips. Suddenly, a hostage crisis pulls all of them back into active duty, much to the chagrin of the MI5 higher-ups.
“Slow Horses gets to have its cake and eat it too, combining a genuinely tense thriller plot with the unexpected comedy of the people trying to solve it being outcasts of whom nothing is expected,” writes Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall (opens in new tab).
Genre: spy thriller
Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%
Trying season 3
Apple’s underrated gem returns with more gentle humor about a London couple’s journey to parenthood. At the end of the second season, Nikki (Esther Smith) and Jason (Rafe Spall) finally became foster parents to Princess (Eden Togwell) and Tyler (Mickey McAnulty).
In season 3, they’re feeling the full weight of parental responsibility. They also begin to realize that keeping the kids (much less officially adopting them) won’t be easy, especially since the lease on their flat is expiring and they’ll have to find someplace new to live.
While the third season doesn’t have an individual critical rating, it does have a 100 percent audience score. And the series overall is certified fresh at 93 percent. Ready Steady Cut’s Adam Lock (opens in new tab) praises Trying season 3 for continuing to be “a feel good comedy that promotes family and friendships above all else.”
Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%
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