Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

First Look at Planet of the Apps

Husain Sumra, MacRumors:

The format of the show is similar to that of fellow talent-based reality shows The Voice and Shark Tank. Aspiring app developers descend down an escalator while pitching four judges on their idea. By the time they get to the bottom, the judges must swipe left or right to demonstrate whether they’re interested. If multiple judges swipe right on a contestant, the contestant gets to choose who they want to pair with. Once paired, the developer goes through an incubator period, getting advise from developers at big companies like Uber, until it’s ready enough to pitch to Lightspeed Venture Partners for funding.

I watched the trailer; it doesn’t look good. I like the “escalator pitch” idea, and I think Gary Vaynerchuk and Jessica Alba will be reasonably competent. But I have reservations about Gwyneth Paltrow and Will.I.Am’s involvement. And then there’s the actual premise of the show:

[Eddy Cue] says Apple is just starting out with original content, but that it wants to do more. When asked whether it could see itself becoming Netflix, Cue said Apple wants to see where it can go with its own strategy. Cue later emphasized that Apple doesn’t just want to buy shows, denying that Apple was ever interested in purchasing The Grand Tour. Instead, Apple only wants to make shows that are unique and “create culture.”

I’ve seen more than a few people write this off as a dramatized version of app development — compiling code and funding rounds, as seen through a reality TV filter. I think that’s overly kind. The premise is derivative, and the clips — so far — seem mediocre and dull. What has been shown so far does a disservice to the vast majority of developers, too.

Meanwhile, for all its faults, the Grand Tour had a genuinely good first season by its end. It may have been a shameless knockoff of the Top Gear format, but it was presented by the same cast that made Top Gear a worldwide phenomenon, and it was a genuine joy to watch. If anything, it managed to make the most recent iteration of Top Gear on the BBC look like the knock-off, not the Grand Tour.

Kirk McElhearn (via Michael Tsai):

A reality show isn’t creating culture, it’s copying a format that is tired. Reality TV is the Android phone of TV shows, and Apple could surely do better.

No matter whether I’m the right audience for this, shouldn’t Apple be shooting for more than a knockoff of X Factor, but with the singing bits replaced with clips of developers asking wealthy VCs for money?

I also think the distribution of this TV show is confused. For some reason, it will be made available through Apple Music within the Music app, despite Apple having an app literally called “TV”.

Sure, the show hasn’t come out yet. I’ll give it a shot — I’m an Apple Music subscriber, so why not? But I’m pessimistic about its chances of clearing my already-low expectations for it.