For Apple’s content business, gratuitous profanity, sex or violence are all verboten as the company tries to thread the needle between being a widely beloved producer of high quality consumer goods and purveyor of paid entertainment to a public that’s increasingly enthralled with blood and gore at its circuses.
It’s not just blood and gore; take a show like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which brought an Emmy award to Amazon. There is a lot of strong language, and, in the pilot, a scene where there are breasts visible. (And the character gets arrested for flashing in the club where she rants on stage.) Even something like that will not pass muster with the Apple censors.
To be fair, this sort of thing clearly crosses a line:
To set the table, The Journal walked readers through some of the issues Tim Cook apparently had with Vital Signs, a title the company had acquired loosely based on the biography of rap legend (and former head of the billion dollar Apple acquisition, Beats) Dr. Dre.
Reportedly, after Cook saw scenes including a mansion orgy, white lines, and drawn guns the Apple chief put the kibosh on the whole production saying it was too violent and not something that Apple can air.
But this is simply ridiculous:
If Apple’s aversion to potentially scandalous storylines is as extreme as The Wall Street Journal article makes it seem — requesting the removal of crucifixes from a set to avoid offending religious sensibilities in an M. Night Shyamalan drama
It’s funny, because some Apple staff have suggested that Apple’s video offerings would be “expensive NBC,” and even NBC has pretty graphic stuff in its police procedurals.
I highlighted this problem back in February, when I wrote:
[…] there’s no reason why excellent TV can’t be family friendly. But in today’s television climate, it’s difficult. West Wing is one of the best series ever on TV (IMHO), and it was a network show. Friday Night Lights was a brilliant series that ran on a network. And Downton Abbey was far from controversial. There are plenty of comedy series that are family friendly. But to push the envelope, there needs to be daring topics, ones that may have some swear words and some tits, and, well, some violence. Black Mirror, House of Cards, Westworld, Homeland, True Detective; all these current and recent series would not pass on US network TV.
But if Apple draws the line at family friendly TV, they will miss out on the next big series; the next Game of Thrones, True Detective, or Breaking Bad. Let’s face it, Reese Witherspoon will not be part of cutting-edge series drama.
I think all these articles miss the point; the reason why Apple is doing this. It all boils down to one thing: China. Apple wants to sell its service around the world, and in the largest market, where the company is stumbling, they can’t afford for it to be blocked. (There are other large countries that might censor risqué content as well, but none with the buying power of China.)