Disney+: Review of the Platform and the Best Devices to Stream On

It seems the debuts of major streaming services (and streaming shows) almost never adhere to the premiere dates they promote. Disney+ was like Apple TV+ and gave everyone an early preview the night before going live for those waiting with bated breath.

My first look at Disney+ was at 11:00 p.m. on November 11 with an immediate eye pop at the movie/TV catalog available. After all, this is the mother lode of film and TV show vaults thanks to Disney owning three major media properties beyond their own.

If you can argue they seriously erred in promoting movies they don’t yet have rights to, the majority of content available still became overwhelming enough. No doubt the strategy is to have us absorb all of it over the next year until they’re able to complete most of their missing pieces so they truly will have “everything.”

An initial test was to stream the Disney classics and see whether they could make the big transition to the streaming world. I somehow avoided the technical glitches thousands of people experienced in the early hours and managed to stream the colorful epics like “Fantasia” and “Sleeping Beauty” on my Samsung smart TV.

The good news is they looked even better than the Blu-Rays I still own, which was unexpected with a Wi-Fi connection. Scenes from “Sleeping Beauty” and “Fantasia” and “Snow White” looked eerily ethereal in a beautiful 4K shine.

Knowing we can stream Disney classics for time immemorial and have them look otherworldly is already a media dream fulfilled. Streaming the newer things looked a little different.

When streaming “The Mandalorian”, it looked visually darker, if still crisp 4K quality. Even watching scenes of “Avengers: Endgame” seemed like it wasn’t quite bright enough. Whether a 4K flaw, or just my own TV, it’s still a tech puzzle.

What I really discovered is most of Disney+ should be watched on a big-screen smart TV with a reliable Wi-Fi connection. “The Mandalorian” alone is like a big-screen space spaghetti western that’s playing like an eight-hour movie.

Also, who would really watch Disney classics on a mobile device? Maybe if you have nothing else to watch while in a busy waiting room, watching on a tablet or smartphone would be convenient. Only the casual originals or episodic TV would work better on mobile, but I’m guessing more people will stream Disney+ on their TV’s than they will Apple TV+, Netflix, or anything else.

As imperfect as Disney+ may be in not having everything (yet), plus using wrong aspect ratios on “The Simpsons” (something they’ll amend in the coming year), they’ve just thrown the gauntlet in shaping what the future of streaming will look like into the 2020s.

What Will Disney+ Be in a Few Years?

You could make an argument Disney+ opened maybe a year too soon. When you consider some of their most anticipated Marvel and “Star Wars” originals won’t even be debuted until well into next year and even 2021, you could call this first year an acclimation.

Perhaps the original strategy was to open a year early and get users into a gradual media flow. There’s definitely enough there now to keep viewers busy for a year. By 2021, we’ll really know whether Disney+ will become the leader in the streaming universe.

In my view, it’s going to become bigger than it already is based squarely on Marvel originals consolidating there, if not most “Star Wars” content. Latter goes on a hunch the big-screen movie franchises for “Star Wars” may not be so plentiful anymore.

Imagining Disney+ eventually having every Disney movie ever made, plus being the central hub for all things Marvel and “Star Wars”, should strike all other services with a little bit of fear.

The jury’s still out on whether Netflix can keep people interested in their originals in years ahead, and the same with Apple TV+. Certainly latter’s “The Morning Show”, “See”, and “Dickinson” are worth sticking with now. Regardless, there’s nothing definite in how long the public will stay committed to new things.

At Disney, they have established brands that are more than likely going to keep everyone riveted for years. If “The Mandalorian” is any indication, there’s going to be a lot of happy Disney+ campers when connecting the shows to discussions on social media.

Disney just shaped the future of streaming profoundly, something that’s easy to miss when being so easily entertained with their media catalog during the service’s first week.

(For further individual takes on Disney+, Apple TV+, and other upcoming streaming services, visit my profile at The Cheat Sheet.)

 

Apple TV+ and “The Morning Show” Review

It seemed as if Apple TV+ was still far off on the horizon until November 1 snuck up on us like another breaking political news story. Let’s crack a smile at the notion that new streaming services arrived just in time when our country’s news cycle makes many want to escape into a six-month binge-watch session.

Sure, call that irony when discussing Apple’s “The Morning Show.”

If Netflix seems to have stayed stable in subscriber numbers and in strategizing to offset Apple (and upcoming Disney+), it doesn’t mean they won’t be challenged eventually.

Apple TV+ might not accomplish that immediately, but I discovered that the programming there is more attractive than critics initially told us.

 

Those of you still sitting on the fence about joining Apple TV+ shouldn’t hesitate to try their 7-day free trial, or the free year you received if buying an Apple product recently. While maybe access on an Apple device is a little more complicated, you can work the app faster on a 2018 or 2019 Samsung smart TV. Just have your Apple ID ready to sign in.

Of course, you can watch on your desktop even easier without needing the latest Apple OS. All you’ll need is the latest Chrome or Firefox browser.

When I first signed in, I noticed how spare Apple TV+’s basic design is. This falls in line with Apple always creating glorious, spare designs in their tech products. Their main page adheres to this by simply placing a full background pic of their shows and a “Play” button.

I recommend watching the shows on a 4K TV if you can, because the budgets for these shows are obvious in every scene. The cinematography in “The Morning Show” alone is worth seeing enlarged and not on a phone or tablet. Even if “TMS” looks somewhat dark, that’s entirely intentional based on a dark world you’re about to enter.

“The Morning Show” Mimics Reality a Little Uncomfortably (At Times)

 No doubt the sound of a vibrating smartphone will haunt you forever after watching the first three episodes of “TMS”, something no doubt intentional. That’s the first sound you hear in the debut episode as we see Jennifer Aniston’s character (celebrated morning anchor Alex Levy) waking in bed to the news her morning co-anchor, Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell), was fired for sexual misconduct.

Yes, Kessler is obviously an eerie parallel to NBC’s Matt Lauer, something Carell taps into in a very haunting way. We even see him give us a glimpse into what Lauer might have done to reflect his anger at home during the middle of the initial chaos.

Seeing Carell’s Kessler smash his hi-def TV screen to bits is something you’ll never forget. As a result, we see Carell isn’t there to play comedy, even if he does have a few droll moments later in episodes two and three.

As memorable as Carell is from his first scene, this is the ultimate acting showcase for Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. Because they executive-produced this show, they’re clearly simpatico when their characters finally lock horns.

Witherspoon plays Bradley Jackson, a mercurial field reporter who blows her top at an anti-coal protest and doesn’t know it was captured as a viral video. Juicy as this part is for Witherspoon, it’s really the weakest character in the mix.

Aniston’s Alex is the most complex of all, giving us a view of the underbelly in cable news, or at least based on Brian Stelter’s view in his adapted book. We quickly see the world we see on-air is almost a fabricated world that can easily fall apart when reality hits a brick wall.

If you watch the first three episodes, you’ll see Aniston in numerous dramatic scenes that show off her acting chops in a way we haven’t seen since the movie “Cake.” Don’t be surprised to see her gain an Emmy nomination for this, a coup for Apple.

 

Perhaps the world of “The Morning Show” seems exaggerated, yet it might not be. Its aim is to reflect on the world of cable news (UBA the almost contrived network name here) rather than try to prognosticate anything.

Unless the show is giving us plenty of warnings here about how cutthroat news might become in the near future, if not already.

Should you find the whole thing a little overwrought, it has a lot of scenes that challenge you on feeling like a voyeur. One scene between Kessler and a fellow disgraced friend (played by Martin Short) will make you squirm during their private discussion of the #MeToo movement. We also find out at this moment Kessler has a bit of a conscience when he calls his friend a sexual predator.

The rest of the cast is top-notch, and they’re all given chances in the spotlight. Billy Crudup’s Cory Ellison is a quietly plastic and cunning exec working the plan to bring Bradley Jackson to UBA and usurp Alex Levy.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw is another standout playing Hannah Shoenfeld who tries to take Bradley under her wing to help her fit in at UBA.

Everyone from Mark Duplass to a short cameo of Brett Butler (playing Bradley’s mother) are memorable and given chances to utter beefy dialogue. Almost everyone has a chance to spit out fast-flying, profane lines that almost sound written by the late Paddy Chayefsky, though written by Kerry Ehrin (with consultation by Brian Stelter).

By the end of the third episode, you’ll be entirely hooked on where the show is going to go and whether we’ll see a Howard Beale moment straight out of “Network.” The show has the feel of latter classic movie (now Broadway play), especially when Alex adamantly admits at a board meeting she’s the real one in control of the network (and American viewers).

As much as “Network” predicted where we are now, “The Morning Show” might be more the flame we’re attracted to in seeing the things we’ve only heard about from the periphery.

The only thing possibly keeping people away from Apple TV+ in its first quarter will be Netflix’s massive November strategy and the birth of Disney+. Figuring out which one becomes the most addicting will be like doing deep-dives into America’s favorite desserts.

 

(P.S.—Stay tuned for a possible review here soon of Apple’s other shows like “See” and “Dickinson”.)