Apples Never Fall TV Review

Apples Never Fall TV Review

A painfully silly and melodramatic drama that wastes talent like Annette Bening and Sam Neill in a mystery that is not mysterious.

PLOT: Former tennis coaches Stan and Joy have sold their successful tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives. While they look forward to spending time with their four adult children, everything changes when a wounded young woman knocks on Joy and Stan’s door, bringing the excitement they’ve been missing. But when Joy suddenly disappears, her children are forced to re-examine their parents’ so-called perfect marriage as their family’s darkest secrets begin to surface.

REVIEW: Liane Moriarty’s brand of mysteries has become popular in recent years. Starting with the HBO adaptation of Big Little Lies and followed by Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers, both featuring Nicole Kidman, Moriarty novels have been prime fodder for limited series on streaming platforms. With large ensemble casts ripe for melodramatic performances from big stars to rising talent, these stories fit neatly into a short run of episodes full of red herrings, sexy misdirections, and subplots aplenty. The latest novel from the author, Apples Never Fall, is now the newest adaptation hitting screens. With a great cast led by Sam Neill, Annette Bening, Jake Lacy, and Alison Brie, Apples Never Fall differs from Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers. With a smaller body count and a larger sense of humor, Apples Never Fall is an atrociously over-the-top story that feels more like material you would expect to debut on Lifetime. An embarrassingly silly story with a nonsensical twist, Apples Never Fall is the type of series that embodies the end of Peak TV.

Apples Never Fall introduces the Delaney family. Stan (Sam Neill) and his wife Joy (Annette Bening) live in Florida with their grown children nearby. The owners of a tennis academy and club, Stan and Joy have sold off their business and are entering retirement. Not sure what to do with their newfound time, the couple bicker and fight, much to the chagrin of their kids. Eldest Troy (Jake Lacy) is a successful businessman with an antagonistic relationship with his father. The second eldest, Amy (Alison Brie), is a hipster bouncing from job to job trying to find her calling. Logan (Conor Merrigan Turner) works at the club and the youngest, Brooke (Essie Randles), is a physical therapist. The siblings are all pretty close to one another and have different relationships with their parents. When a strange young woman named Savannah (Georgia Flood) arrives on the Delaney doorstep on the run from an abusive boyfriend, Joy and Stan take her in and find that having her in the house gives them some purpose. Then, Joy disappears and signs point to Stan as being the potential culprit.

The seven-episode series, of which I have seen the first five, flashes back and forth from the search for Joy to how Savannah’s presence altered the dynamic amongst the Delaneys. With a police investigation looking into Joy’s disappearance and Stan’s potential role in the various lies and secrets the family members have kept from one another, the central mystery remains just what happened to the matriarch of the clan. Each episode focuses on a different member of the family and gives us new perspectives regarding their involvement in the weeks and months before Joy vanished. What we learn is that not only are the Delaneys much more dysfunctional than meets the eye but there are more suspects than just Stan. Each episode reveals new drama in and out of the Delaney home including affairs, money changing hands, and unexpected deaths. What is most shocking is how blase much of the proceedings are and tinged with a sense of humor that ranges from awkward to uncomfortable. There are also multiple twists or attempts at twists that do not work nearly as well as the writers may have hoped. Some I spotted a mile away while others completely undermined the narrative as a whole.

Apples Never Fall review

The cast is a mixed bag as well. Annette Bening, hot off her Oscar-nominated turn in Nyad, does her best with minimal screen time while Sam Neill seems bored and barely raises his energy above lukewarm. Jake Lacy, who was excellent in Friend of the Family and The White Lotus, gets to chew the most scenery as the douchy older brother. Alison Brie delivers a performance as the ditzy sister who seems to make her decisions with no context whatsoever. Both Essie Randles and Conor Merrigan Turner have the best performances in this cast of more recognizable talent as does Georgia Flood who plays Savannah in a way that is fascinating, bizarre, and likely to upset many viewers. Overall, the cast seems to be having fun playing in a soap opera-esque tale that takes itself far more seriously than the material deserves, even when the scene seems to be played for laughs.

Directed by Chris Sweeney (The Tourist) and Dawn Shadforth (I Hate Suzie), Apples Never Fall struggles to make sense of source material that itself was wrought with lackluster reviews. A cursory glance at the novel’s reviews will reveal the same underwhelming response to the twists in Apples Never Fall that end up feeling like everything that came before it was a waste. Showrunner Melanie Marnich (Big Love) assembled a big writer’s room which includes six credited scribes across the series. None of these writers can satisfactorily tell the story, even with each episode taking a distinct point of view. The weakness of the novel leads to this series trying to be a mix of pulpy and melodramatic fluff but played seriously. On one hand, we have Katrina Lenk playing a sexy character with her husband played by comedic actor Timm Sharp. When the time comes for an intense plot turn with both actors, Sharp’s performance is meant to be serious but ends up laughable. This problem happens multiple times throughout the series. I have no problem with humor in a serious series, but when it is played like this, it feels haphazard and poorly constructed.

Apples Never Fall is the weakest of Liane Moriarty’s books and has become the weakest adaptation to date. Once you learn the twist, the series has no way to recover any momentum and has you looking back trying to figure out why you just spent multiple hours invested in these characters. It is fun watching bad people get their comeuppance or good people behaving poorly, but there is no rescuing boring characters making incredulous decisions. This cast is far better than the material they are given and as much fun as they likely had to make this series, Apples Never Fall fails to live up to their abilities. If you are curious about what the big twist is, I recommend waiting until all seven episodes have aired and just watching the finale. You will not have missed much.

Apples Never Fall premieres on March 14th on Peacock.


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