THE MORNING SHOW Review
Back when Apple TV+ launched, this was the show that everyone was talking about. It was the most heavily marketed IP on Apple’s site, billboards, online ads — everywhere. Anybody who was anybody knew about this new show with big names like Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell. So, going into this review, there was definitely a lot of hype and anticipation that I had to sift through, in order to come to an honest opinion. Watching this show was a roller coaster of emotions, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it actually may be what makes this show special.
The Morning Show chronicles the events that take place at a fictional morning cable news station after one of its beloved anchors, Mitch Kessler (played by Steve Carell) after fifteen years is fired due to numerous sexual misconduct allegations. The show reveals how it reflects his colleagues in the aftermath and the actions they take moving forward. Alex Levy (played by Jennifer Aniston) wants to maintain her tenure as an anchor of the Morning Show and must make every move she can to keep her job, while the network heads bring on a new breed of anchoring in Bradley Jackson (played by Reese Witherspoon). From that point, drama and suspense unfold.
First things first, the execution of this show is top-notch. The production values are incredible, as every shot by Michael Grady and David Lanzenberg feels clean and meticulous and the sets are well thought out. But the biggest plus is the performances. Now, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell giving awesome performances was no surprise to me. The real star is Jennifer Aniston. Normally, when I see her in a film or show, it’s hard for me to not see Rachel from Friends. However, in this show, she completely disappears, making you want to go against her character but also side with her at the same time. Aniston brings so much color to the role of Alex Levy, and her development throughout the show is a key piece of this puzzle. Other surprises include Mark Duplass, Billy Crudup, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Their characters were also a joy to watch, as you learn to appreciate and love each and every one of their quirks.
So, all of that was praise. You may be wondering why I said at the beginning that this was a roller coaster of emotions. The reason why I said that is because it took a while for me to recognize the purpose behind this show. I wasn’t sure if the writers were trying to make an accurate depiction of a news network during a time of crisis, or if they were using this show as a way to get some cash from the current sociopolitical climate that is taking place. The show starts off a little slow. I actually ended up taking a break after Episode 5, wondering about the intentions behind the writers. After some digging, I came to find some interesting points.
Now, the show’s premise is obviously inspired by the Matt Lauer allegations scandal of 2017. However, the show is based on a non-fiction book called Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV – written by then-New York Times media reporter now-CNN Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter. The book was published in 2013 — four years before Matt Lauer got caught. Stelter’s intentions behind the book were to chronicle how intense the morning television broadcast environment can be and most notably the replacement of Meredith Vieira by Ann Curry on the Today show. Now, I haven’t read the book, but after watching the whole show, I think it is fair to say that the book’s inspiration for the show is at its best skin deep.
I’m pretty sure the show did take hints from the book’s style in crafting the show’s world and vibe. The setting is fast-paced and intense, and those parts are captured really well. However, I did latch onto something that Katie Couric pointed out about the show — it’s really serious and doesn’t have much charisma. There isn’t a whole lot of laughter or signs of why these people enjoy anchoring morning television, to begin with. There is some dark humor here and there, but it’s underscored by waves of intense drama — almost to the point of cliché melodrama. Also, curiously, the person who created The Morning Show — Jay Carson — has a history of working in democratic politics. He was the press secretary for Hilary Clinton during her 2008 presidential campaign, and he used to be the Chief Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles, reporting to then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. So, it is pretty clear that he pitched the show as a way to bring some commentary on our current sociopolitical climate — however controversial it may get. But Carson left the show due to creative differences — THREE MONTHS before filming even started. Now, even though the current showrunner, Kerry Ehrin, has a successful track record producing shows like Bates Motel and Friday Night Lights; the abrupt change in delegation may explain why The Morning Show feels like a slow burn at first.
Now, the commentary that I mentioned earlier is apparent throughout the show, and it does hit a lot of points many would consider sensitive — the #MeToo movement, sexual inequality, women standing up for themselves and using their voice, corrupt workplace politics, etc. Another thing is that this show has been compared numerous times to Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom. Now, I love Aaron Sorkin. He is my favorite writer of all time. But this comparison seems unfair to me. Think of it like this. The springboard for Sorkin to launch The Newsroom back in 2012 was the desire for actual news in the face of political agendas. While there are hints of that in The Morning Show and it is marketed by Apple as such, the springboard was really the dramatic upset caused by Matt Lauer’s allegations. The show is definitely a targeted effort at those emotions and feelings, but at the end of the day, the quality of the show’s execution determines whether it is simply a product of its time or if it will be remembered in later years as a timestamp we can look back on.
I say this because while the first half of this show takes a while to build, the second half REALLY ramps up. To put this into context, I watched the first five episodes over the course of a couple of weeks. But, after a long break, I binged the remaining five in ONE NIGHT. The show becomes more intense and more enthralling, and, without spoiling anything, it leads to maybe one of the greatest endings I have ever seen on a show.
The show is a drama, and it leans heavily on the dramatic parts, while the morning television depictions are meant to be more in the background and simply “look pretty”. But, the conviction behind the commentary is there, as it not only reflects the flaws in our current culture. The show magnifies and exaggerates those flaws, showing every nitty-gritty detail to harrowing effect. This, I believe, is why the controversy exists. The feeling I had after watching this show was very similar to how I think the world reacted when the movie Joker came out. That film was my favorite one from 2019 — Parasite came very close. But I easily latched onto Joker, since I was already a comic book nerd. I even wrote an article about it. But, because of how grueling the subject matter was, it stayed in the radar, and the initial reactions slowly faded away. This is what I think is currently happening with this show.
Despite the controversy, there is no question that this show was intricately well done and operated on all cylinders. Much like the company Apple, The Morning Show is indeed a flawed gem. But, it’s a gem, nonetheless. This is a big achievement for everyone involved, and I honestly couldn’t be more excited about Season 2.