If you’re an Apple fanboy, chances are you’re heard Apple TV Plus launched this month with three new shows. These shows were heavily advertised, and the company is hoping to compete with the launch of Disney Plus next week. I got a chance to catch the first three episodes of The Morning Show this week and have mixed feelings.
She show gathers an all-star cast, including Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, and Reese Witherspoon, in a thinly-veiled dramatization of Matt Lauer’s departure from Today. It borrows heavily from the mood of Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom on HBO to essentially put white faces on Fox’s Empire and make it palatable for 40-year-old Karens everywhere.
Aniston is Alex Levy, an anchor on “The Morning Show,” which is clearly Today, not Good Morning America, as Polygon’s culturally unaware critic presumed. We know this not only because it’s so close to “The Today Show,” but because the plot you (and Levy) are hit with in the first act of the first episode is the firing of her co-host Mitch Kessler, played by Carell, over multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
This obviously is based on Matt Lauer, whom any critic with any sense would obviously understand after watching just the opening scene. This is so obviously not GMA that one must lament the declining quality of Polygon’s reporting.
Levy is blindsided by the news and finds herself having to announce it without her cohost and partner of 10 years.
Meanwhile, a conservative street correspondent named Bradley Jackson (Witherspoon) loses her shit at a coal mine protest and becomes a viral sensation. She’s known around her affiliate cable station as hot-headed, so she continuously loses out on promotions to the anchor chair. Finally her attitude comes out on a counter-protester, which would have been a fellow conservative in the scenario painted.
As you can imagine, it’s not long before Jackson is appearing on TMS with Levy, where she holds her ground. It’s not long before she makes a big enough hit to become the weekend host, setting up her story arc.
The frenemy-ish awkwardness between Aniston and Witherspoon is sure to be a recurring theme throughout the show, as is their need to take back power from white men. Whatever tension they have seems to be worked out pretty easily.
The redemption of Carell’s character is intentionally left in more in an Aziz Ansari realm in the beginning. Lauer was portrayed as a monster, who used a hidden button under his desk to turn his office into an Austin Powers-style sex dungeon. This turns out to be true, but we don’t find out until later on.
Carell’s character is immediately introduced as a nice guy who had consensual sexual affairs with women who intentionally through themselves at him. He’s given a redemption arc that will presumably tread hot waters and attempt to spearhead the growing movement away from cancel culture created in the wake of #MeToo.
As he watches Aniston’s Levy report the news, we know what we’re about to see, but it’s not until Martin Short shows up that things get dicey. He plays a Hollywood director in the same boat as Lauer, representing everyone from Bill Cosby to Harvey Weinstein. They have what’s clearly meant to be a culturally important conversation in which even Mitch sees the difference between himself and a man who actually committed sexual assault.
Of course this is a necessary conversation for everyone to have, and kudos to Apple for trying to present this idea to the female audience this show feels made for.
Aniston and Witherspoon essentially act as stand-ins for liberal and conservative ideology (something Polygon did at least get right). It’s clear that throughout all of this drama, Apple is attempting to bring everyone together to “understand” each other. This is where the show completely falls apart.
Ultimately, the need to keep everyone working in harmony and showing people trying to work things out and understand each other keeps the show from ever delivering on the drama it’s going for with this style of show. It all comes off feeling empty and unfulfilling. There are no stakes – so there’s no reason to really care.
The Morning Show cost Apple $300 million to make two seasons, which consists of 20 episodes, and only three are out so far. Unfortunately, those three episodes didn’t leave audiences wanting more. It’s a morning show, not the nightly news, so it lacks the brevity of Sorkin’s take on behind-the-scenes media drama. Even The Newsroom struggled by the end of its 25-episode run over three seasons. We were all fans of the first episode, but it quickly devolved into…well…this.
Apple is going to quickly learn that committing to massive numbers in the most expensive show ever made doesn’t guarantee success when the storyline and script ultimately suck. I don’t know about you, but Netflix has no worries about losing me to Apple TV Plus if this is the best they have.