Surprise, Surprise: Tim Cook Killed an Apple TV+ Show About Gawker

Illustration for article titled Surprise, Surprise: Tim Cook Killed an Apple TV+ Show About Gawker
Illustration: Gizmodo

Surprising absolutely no one, Tim Cook is not a fan of now-dead Gawker Media, of which Gizmodo was a part. And though Gawker has been dead since 2016, it appears that Cook also decided to kill a fictional Gawker by pulling the plug on a proposed Apple TV+ show about the site’s glory days.

It’s OK, Tim. We don’t take it personally.

In fact, it was sort of weird when earlier this year Vanity Fair reported that Apple had greenlit the show. Historically speaking, there’s been, uh, some beef between this network of blogs and Apple. This particular site may have gotten its mitts on an iPhone 4 prototype after an Apple employee lost it at a bar. Gizmodo published the deets. Apple was less than pleased. It was a whole thing, a story passed down to every generation of new Gizmodo bloggers, along with some other (in)famous antics of our blogging predecessors.

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On a more personal level, Valleywag—Gawker’s tech gossip blog—publicly speculated about Cook’s sexuality as early as 2008, and then-Gawker writer Ryan Tate also called Tim Cook the “most powerful gay man in America” when he took over as CEO in 2011. This was years before Cook came out himself via an open letter in 2014. All things considered, it’s not shocking that, according to the New York Times, Cook was “surprised to learn that his company was making a show about Gawker” and “expressed a distinctly negative view toward Gawker.”

The show was headed and pitched by two former Gawker staffers, Cord Jefferson (known for his writing on Watchmen and Succession, among other shows) and Max Read. It was purportedly about Gawker’s heyday, albeit under the fictionalized name Scraper. The Times reports that “several episodes” had been completed and that Layne Eskridge, the exec who brought it to Apple TV+ to begin with, had left the company. However, while the show will apparently no longer be coming to Apple TV+, it is reportedly up for grabs and a different network could ostensibly pick it up.

Even if Cook didn’t hold a grudge, it wouldn’t have been a shocker if Apple reneged on the show. So far, it’s been rumored Apple’s held a vise grip over the original content on Apple TV+. The Wall Street Journal reported back in 2018 that Cook also put the kibosh on a Dr. Dre biopic for depicting, sex, drugs, profanity, and violence. In the same report, the WSJ also contends that M. Night Shyamalan’s series Servant also had to remove crucifixes from the walls of the protagonists’ house. BuzzFeed also reported that Apple is keen to stay on China’s good side, shying away from content that might tick off Chinese leaders. So it’s not likely that Gawker’s ignominious demise thanks to a Hulk Hogan sex tape and a resulting lawsuit secretly bankrolled by Peter Thiel—even if thinly fictionalized—would’ve fit Apple TV+’s whole family-friendly vibe.

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Would it have been funny to see how Apple TV+ sanitized the Gawker story? Probably, though possibly in more of a cringe-y way than a genuinely laugh-out-loud sort of way. Perhaps it’s a lost opportunity to subliminally riddle the set of the fictional Gizmodo office with iPhones, MacBooks, and iPads. You bet that half of us would have sold our left kidneys for the chance to see what that whole iPhone 4 saga might’ve looked like, as told by Apple, on the TV screen. That said, it’s kind of more hilarious this is how it ultimately turned out. Touché, Mr. Cook.

Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.

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DISCUSSION

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David E. Davis

then-Gawker writer Ryan Tate also called Tim Cook the “most powerful gay man in America” when he took over as CEO in 2011. This was years before Cook came out himself via an open letter in 2014.

Maybe Tate should have kept his trap shut instead of outing Cook.