In early 2018, as Apple rolled out the content slate for its then-unconfirmed streaming service, the iPhone maker hit its first roadblock: showrunner Brian Fuller dropped out of his reboot of Amazing Stories, which was released in the middle by Steven Spielberg. Created sci-fi anthology series. The Eighties For what it’s worth, Fuller — best known for creating the psychological horror series, Hannibal — has a history of quitting TV shows. He did so with Neil Gaiman’s adaptation of American Gods and Star Trek: Discovery. But while he was previously involved long enough to set the tone—he’s credited on both shows—that’s not the case on Amazing Stories. His name or influence is nowhere to be seen.
And that’s because Fuller quickly ran into tonal troubles. While he was reportedly interested in creating a Black Mirror for Apple TV+, executives were not as enthusiastic about that direction. (For those unaware, Black Mirror — available on Netflix — is a multiple-Emmy-winning anthology series that explores the unexpected consequences of technology, often in dark and satirical ways.) So for the third time in as many years, Fuller quit. Gave. A few months later, Apple selected Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz as new showrunners. After creating the family-friendly fantasy series Once Upon a Time, they were right up Apple Alley.
The new Amazing Stories — or the first of its five episodes, as it was all made available to critics — trades on some aspects that Kitsis and Horowitz were known for. For one, the early episodes — “The Sailor”, directed by Chris Long (The Americans) — include multiple timelines, with a story spanning more than a century. Its narrative—written by Jessica Sharzer (American Horror Story)—has a female empowerment side, which is in line with Once Upon a Time’s push to put a feminist spin on Disney’s fairy tales. And it also deals in plot twists. However, you will see most of them coming which is where the problems begin.
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Spoilers ahead for Amazing Stories.
“The Cellar” opens in the present day by introducing brothers Jake (Micah Stock, from 2019’s The Right Stuff) and Sam Taylor (Dylan O’Brien, from Teen Wolf), who are restoring old homes for a wealthy clientele. Huh. Younger, Sam, though less inclined towards the profession. He’s usually constantly distracted by dating apps, and isn’t as committed to Jake’s idea of a “Taylor Brothers construction” as he seeks his purpose. Sam is a 100-percent millennial, as Jake tells it to his face. As the two are working on a new, old house, one night a huge storm hits. And during the said incident, a supernatural event causes Sam to run out of time.
Sam is completely shocked, not least because he’s in the same house, except that he’s magically restored to his glory. To further add to the confusion, there is no sign of Jake. Instead, the house belongs to a young music-loving woman named Evelyn (Victoria Pedretti, from You and The Haunting of Hill House), who is soon to be married to a wealthy widower with three children. When Sam helps Evelyn in her time of need, the two strike up a friendship—as you might expect, and more blossoms—as he tries to convince her that he’s not from her era. But as lovers go about their time-crossed tale, Amazing Stories encounters more than one obstacle along the way.
The big problem for “The Sailor” is that the writing never really goes below the surface. It touches on destiny, being born in the wrong era, and helping people on their journey, but Amazing Stories doesn’t really have anything deep to say about it. It doesn’t help that it lacks the building blocks needed to build its critical moments, and at times, it jumps from thing to thing without proper flow, reflecting a mix of random direction and editing. Furthermore, as the episode progresses, the internal logic falls apart increasingly, with the characters failing to question the facts in plain sight or the writers throwing away the fundamentals they established themselves. .
Ultimately, its central characters – Sam and Evelyn – are never really alive, and their love story is as ordinary as it comes. It is strange that the time difference between them does not cause any glee. “The Cellar” is off to a less than promising start to the Apple-fueled return of Amazing Stories — which counts Spielberg as an executive producer — but considering it’s part of an anthology, it’s impossible to say how the other four. Will pay rent However, according to what we have in front of us, this is not a surprising start to Amazing Stories. It’s always been interesting to think about what Fuller’s continued involvement would bring to a project, but it applies even more here, provided he went earlier than usual.
Amazing Stories will premiere worldwide on Apple TV+ on Friday. More episodes follow weekly.