I have strong feelings about the Apple TV+ series Slow Horses. It’s a combination of gripping John Le Carré–style espionage thriller and workplace comedy, like The Office. Gary Oldman stars as Jackson Lamb, an unkempt, neckless individual who slurps up greasy lo mein noodles and presides over Slough House, where bumbling spy rejects from MI5 go when they’ve screwed up too badly to be allowed back into the fold.
This sounds downright goofy until you see it. Half the time it’s firefights, KGB agents, and hairsbreadth escapes; the other half is Sorkin Lite bickering about farting or being a nepo baby or a poser. There are Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy references in honor of Oldman’s previous role. It’s the kind of show that makes you marvel at the fact that you can watch Welsh character actor Sir Jonathan Pryce, mutter, “He’s dead. I’m alive. I’m going to go put the kettle on,” and stomp off with a shotgun, for just $10 a month.
Perhaps the most miraculous thing about Slow Horses, though, is that it’s just one of a slate of great shows on Apple TV+. In 2019, WIRED contributing editor Peter Rubin asked if Apple TV+ really could become a streaming giant. If you define success as having shows with A-list actors, gripping writing, and incredible set design, then yes, it has succeeded. Even the children’s programming is incredible. Frustrated with all of the changes at (HBO) Max? It might be time to switch.
Like many, I’ve watched Apple’s hesitant footsteps into streaming television for the past few years with skepticism. Planet of the Apps? Carpool Karaoke? Everything was embarrassingly bad. Even when the company announced that it was going to work with A-list directors, it sought out only the most boring concepts possible—smarmy people, mostly white, doing smarmy things.
Great TV just isn’t Apple Store–friendly, safe, or bland. And there were just too many other streaming services competing for my limited time and money. If you want crap television to watch while sorting laundry, Netflix has Alone, Love Is Blind, and Selling Sunset. If you’re a franchise fan, Disney+ comes with Marvel and Star Wars. And of course, until recently, Max was HBO-ing harder than ever. Succession and quiet luxury became part of the national parlance. Like everyone, I fell in love with Pedro Pascal in The Last of Us.
But in mid-2022, I got a press release for the BBC series Prehistoric Planet, which premiered exclusively on Apple TV+. The show used a combination of exquisite storytelling and CGI to recreate dinosaurs in different terrains and climates. It was astoundingly beautiful. My children and I were mesmerized for weeks. “Did you see that the dinosaurs had bubbles on their necks?” I asked other parents at elementary school pickup.