When Peacock TV, the NBC/Universal streaming network, launched last summer, the streamer offered early-bird subscribers a year-long subscription for around $25, which comes to a little more than $2 a month. I leaped at the offer thinking it would be a bargain. We were only months into the pandemic, and I looked forward to all the new offerings to help get us through the year. Six months into the subscription, however, and that expense had started to feel like a disappointment.
Peacock launched with the drama Brave New World, which was not the House of Cards or even The Morning Show that the streamer had hoped. The nine episodes came and went and Peacock didn’t even bother to order more. Beyond that, the streaming network had very little else among its original series except for a batch of international shows that it licensed from the UK, most of which were middling (Hitmen, The Capture) to bad (David Schwimmer’s Intelligence), although there was one gem among them, Lennie James’ Save Me.
Beyond that, the best original programming that Peacock had going for it was the third season of the wry and funny A.P. Bio, spun off from NBC and starring It’s Alway Sunny’s Glenn Howerton. It was good, but not worth the year-long Peacock subscription price. In the new year, at least, Peacock was finally able to begin streaming Netflix’s biggest hit, The Office, but by then, most of the rewatchers had gotten their fill watching it on Netflix during the pandemic.
Lately, however, the streamer has begun to show signs of life, beginning really last September, when they gave Larry Wilmore and Amber Ruffin their own weekly late-night shows. Wilmore’s show didn’t last beyond 11 episodes, but The Amber Ruffin Show has become one of the few successful late-night shows to succeed on a streamer. She (and head writer Jenny Hagel, also over from Late Night with Seth Meyers) are an absolute delight, and the show was quickly able to establish a unique voice and presence in the late-night landscape.
Meanwhile, the Saved by the Bell reboot launched last November, and while it was met with skepticism among many, it’s actually good. Really good, the kind of series that fans of the original can happily watch with their kids. It’s progressive, smarter than it has any right to be for a show called Saved by the Bell, and it’s even taken a few hilarious shots at the original series. The Punky Brewster revival came along in February, and while it’s certainly not worth the price of a subscription, it’s a pleasantly decent family show.
In the spring, however, is when Peacock really started to come into its own, launching the Ed Helms, Mike Schur, and Sierra Teller Ornelas. comedy Rutherford Falls, easily the best new show on the streamer at the time. It’s a delightful sitcom about a well-meaning white guy (Helms) who thinks he’s doing the right thing by trying to salvage the legacy of his family in a town where the Indigenous population had been sidelined (and worse) by his ancestors. It’s not only an excellent series but features one of the largest Indigenous writing staffs and casts on American television.
The streamer soon built upon Rutherford Falls with Girls5Eva, the new best show on Peacock, a hilarious series about a one-hit-wonder girl group who reunite in their 40s in an effort to resurrect their star. It comes from Meredith Scardino (a protege of Tina Fey), and it has all of Fey’s sensibilities — it’s loaded with pop-culture references and stacks jokes on top of jokes — only it’s better built for the 2020s (it is, in fact, better than the actual Tina Fey sitcom currently airing on NBC, The Mayor).
Moreover, earlier this month, Peacock even brought aboard its best international series, We Are Lady Parts, a British comedy about a punk-rock band that consists of Muslim women (it currently sits at 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes).
It’s hard to say, with the existing original content, that Peacock is worth a year-long paid subscription, although it’s certainly worth subscribing to for (at least) a month just to watch Rutherford Falls, We Are Lady Parts, and Girls5Eva (and watch The Amber Ruffin Show while you have it). However, there’s also plenty of good content in the pipeline for Peacock TV. They’re working on Bel Air, a darker, more dramatic re-imagining of the Will Smith sitcom. Will Forte’s MacGruber series has found a home on Peacock. Seth MacFarlane is turning Ted into a television series there. Battlestar Galactica is being rebooted again for the streamer, and Emmy Rossum’s Angelyne is currently in post-production. A revival of Queer as Folk has been ordered, a Joe Exotic miniseries starring Kate McKinnon is on its way, another Law & Order series, Hate Crimes, will premiere later this year, and Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol is being turned into a series. Perhaps most intriguing is the fact that Peacock landed Damon Lindelof’s follow-up to Watchmen, Mrs. Davis, which he is developing with Tara Davis.
All of which is to say: unless you’re a fan of The Office, the WWE, or the Fast and Furious films, Peacock is not fully stocked yet, but with its huge library of content and its growing list of originals, it is well on its way to becoming a real contender among the streaming platforms.