For Apple’s First Series, Planet of the Apps, the Company Imitates, Not Innovates

The Shark Tank-esque show assembles—but wastes—an A-list panel

Jessica Alba,, Gwyneth Paltrow and Gary Vaynerchuk bring the star power, but no sizzle, to Planet of the Apps.
Apple Music

Throughout most of its lifespan, Apple has been an innovator—if it doesn’t outright invent a new product, it takes an existing one to the next level and beyond—but as the company releases its first series, it finds itself in a unusual position: that of imitator.

That’s the case with Planet of the Apps, which unexpectedly premiered at midnight on Apple Music (the first episode is also available for free on iTunes and, after a screening Tuesday at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. The first season’s remaining nine episodes will roll out each Wednesday on Apple Music.

The Shark Tank-like (and, Shark Tank-lite) series—where app developers try to sell one of four big-name advisors on their new app and partner with them for six weeks to secure their piece of $10 million in venture capital funding for the app, along with featured placement on the App Store—is perfectly adequate and occasionally insightful. But in the era of Peak TV, there’s not enough here to warrant users to subscribers to fork over $9.99 per month to subscribe to Apple Music, a case that could easily be made for two other recent shows from subscription streaming outlets: CBS All Access’ The Good Fight and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

(I should note that Planet of the Apps wasn’t originally intended to be Apple Music’s debut series. Carpool Karaoke, the spinoff of The Late Late Show with James Corden’s most popular segment, had initially been slotted for the spring, but now will premiere on Aug. 8.)

Developers have 60 seconds on a descending escalator to get at least one of the advisers intrigued enough to swipe green (as opposed to red) on their iPads. Those who receive at least one green advance to the next level, where they share a deeper dive into their app. If more than one adviser is interested, the developer gets to decide which to partner with.

Then, for the next six weeks, the developer and adviser work to fine-tune the app ahead of their pitch to the show’s venture capital partner, Lightspeed Venture Partners, who were the first institutional investors in Snapchat. Lightspeed is committing more than $10 million in capital for Planet of the App’s first season.

The early problems come, somewhat surprisingly, from its A-list panel of advisors: Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Gary Vaynerchuk. (The four are also executive producers on the show, along with Ben Silverman and Howard Owens, both of whom co-created the show with

While similar shows like Shark Tank and The Voice revel in their panel’s magnetic personalities and spirited interactions, in the first episode, those people are muted, with the exception of Vaynerchuk. Zane Lowe, who hosts Beats 1 on Apple Music, hosts the show, but he also fails to leave much of an impact.

Alba, Paltrow and are far too reserved for a show like this, which needs out-sized characters to keep viewers engaged. Instead, they are blank slates, and aside from Vaynerchuk, always on their best behavior, to the show’s detriment. If they aren’t bringing their personalities to the show, what’s the point of them being there?

This is partially the fault of the show, which fails to establish the advisors’ business bonafides of those people, and why they’d be qualified to give advice. The large portion of viewers who know Alba, Paltrow and from their acting and/or music careers might not know much about The Honest Company, Goop, or Vayner Media, and the show makes no effort to elaborate. (Even after eight seasons, Shark Tank still opens each episode with a quick explanation of what its sharks bring to the table.)