Looking for Apple’s version of “Breaking Bad”

As it continues to build a content library for an upcoming media service, Apple no longer seems wedded to the idea that it should steer away from gratuitous sex, profanity or violence in order to protect its Disneyfied brand.

This has become evident following today’s report from CNBC that the iPhone maker is negotiating for the rights to adapt the gritty Israeli drama “Nevelot” for the US market with “Pretty Woman” star Richard Gere potentially playing one of the show’s key characters.

The plot involves two military veterans who go on a youth-focused killing spree because they believe today’s kids don’t understand the sacrifices of their generation. Apple is backing this?

Deadline has a more detailed plot description:

The untitled series follows two elderly Vietnam vets and best friends, one of whom played by Gere, who find their monotonous lives upended when a woman they both loved fifty years ago is killed by a car.

Their lifelong regrets and secrets collide with their resentment of today’s self-absorbed millennials, and an act of self-defense snowballs into a tragic series of events.

This definitely dispels the myth that Apple wants only family-friendly content.

Has the Cupertino tech giant really decided that it wants shows that include violence, politics and rude language after all? And why this sudden change of heart when it was just in September we learned it didn’t want shows that included violence, politics or rude language?

ROUNDUP: Apple’s upcoming original TV series

CNBC has learned from multiple people who have spoken to Apple and have knowledge of their thinking in recent months that TV-MA content is now actually “fair game”. Under the TV parental guidelines in the US, the TV-MA rating denotes content specifically designed to be viewed by adults which may therefore be unsuitable for children under 17.

Apple’s portrayal of its own brand image was on display in September when we learned that Tim Cook personally shot Dr. Dre’s series “Vital Signs” down because it was too violent.

“Vital Signs” was meant to be Apple’s first scripted TV show.

It’s a dark drama based on the life of rap mogul Dr. Dre with no shortage of violence and sex—small wonder Apple cancelled it. One episode apparently featured an extended orgy scene in a mansion with others depicting things like characters doing lines of cocaine and drawing guns.

If CNBC’s report is to be trusted, the Cupertino company has changed its stance, likely after realizing that its approach would stand no chance rivaling the likes of HBO and Netflix, which have been able to build their respective empires on bold, edgy shows because they make money from subscriptions and don’t run ads on their platforms.

According to CNBC’s sources:

In general, Apple wants high-impact content based on things people have heard of, like books, franchises or ideas that have resonance. It’s not wedded to existing formats that need commercial breaks, emphasizing unusual formats like anthologies and content that doesn’t fit within the traditional 30-minute and 60-minute time slots. It’s emphasizing it’s looking for ‘different’ content, as long as it has substance and isn’t gratuitous.

Zach Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, Apple’s heads of programming and industry legends, were previously presidents of Sony Pictures Television. The dynamic duo is lauded for bringing the popular series “Breaking Bad” and its show runner Vince Gilligan to Sony.

Could they pull the same trick at Apple? Could a show that revolved around a high school teacher turned meth dealer ever be offered through Apple’s upcoming video service?

Is Apple really looking for its version of “Breaking Bad”.

The answer to these questions seems to be a resounding ‘yes’ because Amburg and Erlicht, according to CNBC, have “made it very clear” that they are now pushing for edgier shows. Despite that, Apple remains interested in family content.

It’s also in the market for kids’ programming, focusing on buying shows for preschoolers this year. Starting next year, the company will start looking at shows for school-aged children. It is expected Apple will have parental controls to help parents shield children from watching inappropriate content.

The immediate goal is to build a content library for its service, but long-term thinking seems to revolve around leveraging Apple’s strengths to enrich shows with interactive features.

In conversations with TV show creators and agents Van Amburg and Erlicht have also painted a long-term vision of more advanced interactive and immersive content. These plans are not imminent and are not driving which shows they’re aiming to buy, but are rather an example of the kind of advantages Apple could bring to the table.

None of Apple’s video projects we currently know about are rocking the boat but that doesn’t mean that the company hasn’t realized that it should change its approach to show production.

One thing is certain: the $4.2 billion which Apple has allocated for content through 2020 certainly pales in comparison to the north of $8 billion that Netflix is expected to burn in 2018 alone on acquiring content and funding its original shows.

My take?

It’s about courage, not the money.

What do you guys think? Should Apple’s rumored video-streaming service host more family-friendly content and steer away from gratuitous sex, profanity or violence, do you think? And does the company stand a chance to steal eyeballs away from the likes of Netflix and Amazon?

Let us know your thoughts on this by leaving a comment down below.