As the streaming wars between Netflix and Disney heats up with the launch of Disney+ later this month, Apple decided to pop up with a handful of shows too. Their program with the most buzz is The Morning Show, a workplace drama at a daytime news network. It aims to tackle the #Metoo movement with a fresh take, at least one that’s not present in mainstream media. It reminds me a lot of The Newsroom, the HBO drama that ran for three seasons. But this is on Apple TV+, which means not that many people will watch it—and I don’t know if that’s a bad thing.
The Morning Show is never consistent. In an episode, you can go from enjoying yourself, to hating it, to being bored, and then back to loving it. There are blatant levels of mishandling in characters, stories, and plot progression that can be really hard to justify. It can’t keep itself from falling apart every chance it gets. The only threads holding it together are occasional moments that are simply brilliant. There are scenes and character beats that just mesmerise with how perfect they were in the moment.
The blatant pandering towards porgressive ideas is another aspect of the show that made me cringe. Having Jennifer Aniston’s character scream about ‘male egos’ and saying, “Sometimes women can’t ask for control, they just have to take it”; all just makes you roll your eyes. The reason it doesn’t come across as empowering and not just preachy, is that the characters aren’t real enough for their dialogue to carry any weight. Everyone is so unlikable, and not in a peek behind the curtain kind of way. It’s not even the actors’ fault, the show just didn’t write any compelling characters.
What makes the whole situation worse, is that everything is shamelessly telegraphed. You have two white female leads for ‘progressive’ aspirations—while everyone in the control room is an African American women. Then to have more diversity in the show, the only African American man is also gay. It comes off as straight up check boxes that need to be filled, lip service to the idea of being woke. In real morning talk shows, there are people from every background, not just white women on screen.
This altered view and the problems that arise from it are a direct result of Reese Witherspoon. She is responsible for the show, its her production company that makes it and it's her vehicle to star in. She gave herself the main character role, the mid 40 year old who is now sought after for her personal brand of moxie. With people clambering to work with her and getting a standing ovation for existing at the beginning of episode 3, it seems like her personal fantasy. It all backfires as all the main female characters are more sentient arguments rather than people.
The only person of interest is Billy Crudup’s character as the News Network President. His transparency anchors the show to reality. He’s the only character that can be confused for a real person which makes his part so interesting. When the show is being honest, that’s when it’s at its best. So Crudup’s character but also Steve Carell’s journey on the show. His role of Mitch is why you could be interested in watching this thing.
Mitch, at the beginning of the first episode, is fired for sexual misconduct; he had sexual relations with staffers of his show. You get to see how upset he is, that he takes personal offense with the idea that he is a predator. He continually makes the distinction that he did not rape anyone, that it was all consentual. There are moments in the show that depict the grey area of the situation. The contrast in episode 3 where he talks to a disgraced director who was also affected by the #Metoo movement, makes him realise how people see him. The viewer knows what he did was wrong, but the interesting part is trying to differentiate his situation from everyone elses that are in the same group.
At least that’s what I think it's trying to say. I don’t know if The Morning Show knows what it is or knows what it wants to say. After three episodes, it has contradicted its own ideas and fubbled its way into depicting a nuanced perspective. Even the press forward attitude was derailed after Aniston’s character says, “I don’t know what I’m doing”. It was supposed to be a bonding moment for the two leads but gives credence to the idea that her character is crazy, something echoed at the end of the third episode.
So I will continue to watch The Morning Show for four more episodes. If it doesn’t get better by then, I’m dropping it. But for now, it's a cautionary recommend because it does have some great moments. The distinction should be made that it is not as good as The Newsroom, a show that knew more about presentation and how a live TV set is actually run. If you were interested in The Morning Show to see how day time television is made, this is not the show for you. It’s squarely focused on how middle aged white women either have no friends at their work, or how they are Cinderella’d into their dream lives.