Of the three big scripted shows arriving on Apple TV+ launch day, Dickinson is the biggest surprise. It’s the story of 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson told in the form of a half-hour domestic sitcom, albeit with a distinctly quirky, Indie movie quality to it.
Created by Alena Smith (who’s written episodes of The Affair) and directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express), it provides a joyously frothy vehicle for Hailee Steinfeld in the title role of the rebellious teenager who writes poems in defiance of her puritanical father (Toby Huss) and traditional mother (Jane Krakowski), who just wants Emily to settle down with a nice, rich man. But Dickinson herself is more interested in getting intimate with her would-be sister-in-law Sue (Ella Hunt). As well as being a story about defying convention, the series itself does so too, with rapper Wiz Khalifa popping up at regular intervals as a vision of Death.
The quirkiness can feel self-conscious at times, and there are sudden dramatic outbreaks of melancholy seriousness which are a tad forced, but Steinfeld’s innate charm drives the whole thing forward with gusto. Smith has created something quite unlike anything else out there at the moment – mainstream it is not.