Planet of the Apps review celebrity panel can’t save Apple’s dull first TV show

The tech giants inaugural TV offering, which sees a panel of celebrities judge the merits of new cellphone apps, manages to be both boring and self-indulgent

Planet of the Apps, the first original series by Apple and a curious choice to lead the rollout of the companys evergreen content, wont be a fun watch for anyone except maybe venture capitalists and those subscribed to Goop.

The unscripted competition show, which follows enterprising hopefuls as they pitch new, often remarkably boring ideas for phone applications to a panel of celebrity judges, is a bit like Dragons Den or Shark Tank meets The Voice, although I dont imagine itll attract the devoted followings of either.

Hosted by Zane Lowe who also heads up Apples international radio station, Beats 1 Planet of the Apps is a ridiculously optimistic attempt to make a reality show that capitalizes on peoples appetite for the latest and greatest in cellphone accoutrements. In the first episode, which was made available on Apple Music on Tuesday, young men and women, each as convinced of the ingenuity of their endeavors as the next, give a pitch as they descend a moving ramp, looking a bit like the robots in Westworld meeting their makers.

Except instead of a jaded Anthony Hopkins waiting for them in a basement, theyre greeted by Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, and Gary Vaynerchuk (a tell-it-like-it-is digital marketing tycoon), the jurists wholl decide whether or not these entrepreneurs advance to the next stage, a meeting with venture capitalists who may or may not invest in their companies.

Its painful to watch these would-be tech magnates make stilted speeches about why the world needs their app, only to watch them get remorselessly cross-questioned by celebrities who parlayed their success in entertainment into careers in business. This is not to say Paltrow, Alba and the former Black Eyed Peas frontman dont have useful wisdom to impart, merely that the experience, as a viewer, feels a bit like reading one of those Paltrow quotes about her troubles finding organic wine in Paris, or how she refuses to feed her kids cheese from a tin its a sort of vicarious embarrassment thats not entirely unenjoyable.

In one pitch, three dude-bros tell the judges about their dating app, Twist, which hopes to ensure those who match actually meet in person the rate of in-person meetings on apps of this ilk is apparently just 0.824% by inviting them to events nearby, like parties or concerts or festivals. Alba points out that the evolutionary endpoint of this idea is 20 ravenous men congregating in one place to pursue one attendee. The dude-bros look like theyve seen a ghost. All four judges pass, tell them they need more women involved in their app, and move on to the next contender.

There were a few good ideas presented, including the app Companion, started by two University of Miami students concerned about campus safety, that allows a remote friend to monitor, say, your walk home from the bar and get notified when youve made it safely. Its a good idea (not hard to justify in a world where an app like Twist could be conceived), and one of the judges, Vaynerchuk, bites. But then, on the morning of his meeting with his new underlings (curious timing), Google releases a location-sharing feature. Always be scared of Google and Apple, one investor says, a line that unsurprisingly made the final cut.

The most grating part of Planet of the Apps is its obsession with the parlance of contemporary entrepreneurship. Nearly every judge, investor and contestant drops an acronym (slam, SDK, B2B, etc) that so self-consciously reiterated the shows desire to seem serious and corporate, as if an unseen teleprompter held a running list of business-y jargon. But the problem isnt earnestness in fact, thats the least of the shows problems but rather the way it turns its young contestants into vessels for the judges and investors sour displays of authority. Let me tell you the last thing you should talk about when Google copies your product, Gary says. Your brand.

One hopes that Apples future original content more closely resembles that of Netflix and Amazon, who, in pioneering the era of streaming, are offering a veritable smorgasbord of originals, from scripted dramas to indie comedies to stand-up specials and beyond. Apple certainly has the ability to meet that threshold, if not creatively then in sheer buying power. But Planet of the Apps-and-chill is no more likely to become a thing than Twist.

Read more: