How Apple TV+ Cornered the Market on “Prestige Dad TV”

Masters of the Air, the miniseries about young, shearling-clad World War II fighter pilots, felt familiar at first. Or, as we put it in GQ:Masters of the Air Is Band of Brothers With Planes and Everyone Is in It.” Let’s parse this. Yes, everyone is in it (Austin Butler, Callum Turner, and Barry Keoghan, at least). As for the “Band of Brothers With Planes” part: Masters of the Air is an installment in Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’s WWII extended universe, which began with Brothers in 2001 and continued with The Pacific (Band of Brothers with boats) in 2010. But while both those series were HBO productions, Masters of the Air is, conspicuously, not.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the $250 million production price tag caused HBO to bow out in 2019. Apple then swept in like a [Googles “types of planes + Masters of the Air”] and, in January 2024, released it on Apple TV+. Five years into the launch of the streaming service, this move thoroughly made sense. Because if there’s one thing Apple TV+ does better than anyone, it’s Prestige Dad TV.

What, exactly, is Prestige Dad TV? First, we must remember the halcyon days of the Second Golden Age of Television, which was ushered in around 2000 by shows like The Sopranos and Mad Men and Breaking Bad. In other words, what we know as Prestige TV.

Nearly a quarter-century later, we’re in a streaming-network arms race, with hundreds of new TV shows premiering annually. Despite any outward aspirations to capture that prestige glow—complicated heroes, darkness both figurative and literal, high production costs—not everything can fall into this echelon. In fact, most shows can’t. Quantity is superseding quality, to the point where networks are leaning more and more into background TV—shows so simple you can digest them while simultaneously scrolling on your phone.

Somewhere in between those two poles of highfalutin drama and at-home lobotomization is Prestige Dad TV. It’s different from Dad TV, which is, as Yahoo recently put it, “where shows like Yellowstone, Billions and Reacher live—not too heavy, not too light, just right for unwinding.” With no disrespect to Bosch or Ray Donovan, Prestige Dad shows aren’t built to run for seven seasons and then get a spinoff. Prestige Dad TV has all the classic signifiers of prestige TV, but is laser-focused on topics that dads of a certain age traditionally can’t get enough of. Espionage. Action. History—especially, but not limited to, World War II. Shows about no-nonsense older men—especially, but not limited to, dads—saving the day.

Unlike traditional Dad TV, Prestige Dad TV is for dads who aren’t like other dads. After all, they have the know-how to subscribe to Apple TV+ in the first place. It’s still not as gargantuan as, say, Netflix or Prime Video. The catalog itself is also smaller and more carefully curated. “Having entered the streaming battlefield with no legacy library and no licensed content … Apple has always proudly taken a quality-over-quantity approach to its original programming,” Variety reported last fall.

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