I extol praise on quite a number of Apple TV+ projects, and I’ll admit I’m a little pre-disposed to wanting to. I’ve had the privilege of working directly with many of their key executives for many years, and I’ve seen first-hand their dedication to finding the right talent and the right tone for projects they are passionate about and being strong enough to sell their vision internally to overly judgmental, less auspiced colleagues and superiors who might put up financial or moral roadblocks unnecessarily.
Unlike their counterparts at other SVODs, they have strategically chosen to produce fewer original projects, which from a business standpoint kind of flies in the face of the economics of streaming services. Having more content to keep subscribers within their walled garden has been seen as the secret sauce to subscriber retention. It’s the Vegas buffet approach to feeding appetites, and if it works for Netflix, Prime Video, or the studio-driven SVODs so be it,
There’s also an argument to be made that gourmet restaurants with limited menus have their place in the food chain as well. And that seems to be Apple TV+’s path. Fewer swings means more pressure to deliver in the clutch. SEVERANCE is the latest, and one of the best, examples of how this service is as reliable in the clutch as any two-strike hitter ever was.
With Ben Stiller, fastly developing a second act as a directorial genius on the heels of ESCAPE FROM ANNAPURNA, as director and a strong cast featuring Adam Scott in the lead, bolstered by strong co-stars both well-known (Christopher Walken and Patricia Arquette) and less known (the engaging Britt Lower for example). SEVERANCE takes unto into a 1984-like world where the concept of work life and home life being separated by edict is the norm. We see characters’ lives both an innies (within the workplace) and outies (at home), where each personality has no knowledge of the other. In effect, this creates a path for someone to be two people at once, often with conflicting morals, passions and purposes.
It’s captivating, well-shot and brings you quickly into this world. And, frankly, it’s a world I know all too well, and one that the pandemic has compromised dramatically.
My office was always my escape into relevance, respect and success. Like the characters in SEVERANCE, I enjoyed perks like free meals, snacks, team bonding outings and intellectual stimulation in comfortable, sometimes eclectic office settings. Those who worked for tech companies in the last twenty years often enjoyed far more benefits than I did. Many of my colleagues became my confidents, my support system and often my salvation.
Few knew the sheer hell I went home to–cluttered home, demanding partner, intense pressure to support desperate family members’ dreams, exorbitant costs of living that I could not keep up with, and little lane to discuss like adults. It created the pressure cooker that built over many years that I did not have either the direction or sufficient outer world support to offset. Few knew of my double life, and it’s likely few cared. That said, I often had little clue about how or why they lived, how truly happy they were office photos notwithstanding, and couldn’t relate to how badly they wished they were somewhere else besides in a conference room with me.
For SEVERANCE to come along at a time where those that do work mostly work from their home offices, bedrooms or kitchen tables, and generationally seem incredibly impassioned about working from home and improve their quality of life is especially opportunistic. I truly can’t relate to the concept of someone being so happy with their partner and family and/or so resolutely fearful of interacting with others. But, clearly, there are millions of younger, secure, supported workers who would actually choose to work for a company that doesn’t require physical interaction. The New York Times devoted an insightful article this past weekend to this very subject, and the absolute passion that those that seek this liberation and work/life balance is compelling.
Yet I also know that I’ve never felt more detached from the business world I have had historic success with than now, where the ability to physically network is shunned and the actual availability of real jobs so constantly turning out to be blind alleys. When companies who advertise actual job leads, such as the Insights Career Network, offer the carrot of actual interaction, I’m there. I e-mailed the organizer to reinforce my determination. Instead of offering encouragement, he rudely replied that I should not disturb him while he’s about to “go on”, and later chose to block me because I called him out on offering a series of links to jobs he had no idea were open or not or for that matter actively pursuing.
I wonder if this gentleman was working in an office or from his home. At least he’s working. SEVERANCE emotionally explores why overreliance on one or the other can be dystopic. I’d give anything to be faced with that dilemma. Literally. Anything.
Until then, I’ll take solace that with my expanded down time I’ll at least have the balance of this season, plus other Apple TV+ originals, to keep me company. It’s not a fully interactive experience. But it’s an escape.
Thanks again, friends. Keep hitting it out when it counts most.
Until next time….