The Morning Show, one of the first original series from Apple TV+, begins with Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) finding out that her co-anchor of 15 years, Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell), has been fired for sexual misconduct. As their chemistry kept the morning news show afloat, Alex has to fight to keep her job — especially when she finds out that network executives have already been looking to replace her aging presence.
In an attempt to amplify women’s voices, field reporter Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) is invited to be interviewed by Alex after going viral for yelling at a coal mine protester. After their subtle sparring match, it’s clear that Alex and Bradley made a lasting impressing on each other. As Alex continues to feel insecure about keeping her position, she overthrows her network by publicly announcing that Bradley will be joining her as Mitch’s replacement — much to the surprise of everyone, including Bradley herself.
It’s not very often that we consider what’s going on behind the scenes of televised journalism, but corruption and abuse of power come as no surprise. The Morning Show was inspired by Brian Stelter’s book ‘Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV’ and draws parallels from the Today show incident with Matt Lauer. It also shows the unraveling of Harvey Weinstein as it explores a similar thing happening within UBA, The Morning Show’s network.
The series begins right in the middle of the heated drama and doesn’t slow down as its ten hour-long episodes explore everything the #MeToo movement stands for. Each episode is filled with gripping drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat. There’s always a vital moment that grabs you and makes it impossible to look away. You have to know what happens next.
Aniston delivers a powerhouse performance as an angry, passionate and powerful news anchor with a lot to lose. She knows what she’s worth and it’s exciting to watch her take what she wants. But Aniston also delivers a nuanced performance in that her character demonstrates almost constant anxiety as the pressure around her builds. Witherspoon’s Bradley is Alex’s opposite. She has a fiery attitude, but she’s often unsure of herself. She’s fresh flood who has been thrown in at the deep end, right in the chaotic center of petty rivalry. She represents someone who people are more able to relate to. She’s from a small town in Virginia and feels she doesn’t fit in — but it’s hard for this to be fully believable when Witherspoon is very much on par with Aniston.
As The Morning Show progresses, we’re able to explore some of the other characters in its impressive cast: Mark Duplass is Charlie, the show’s producer; Gugu Mbatha-Raw is Hannah, the head talent booker; Bel Powley is Claire, a production assistant; Billy Crudup is Cory Ellison, a UBA network executive; and Tom Irwin is Fred Micklen, UBA’s president. Cory is a fun character. He has a powerful presence, yet doesn’t seem phased by any of the drama happening within his show. Instead, he manipulates people and responds to crisis incidents like it’s all a fun game — because to him, it is. Hannah also grows as a character who becomes integral to the story as Mbatha-Raw delivers a powerful and emotionally charged performance.
The Morning Show is confident. It has excellent storytelling, it’s well-shot and has great cinematography. There are a lot of intimate close-up shots of the characters which bring us closer to them and their heightened emotions. It also has a fantastic soundtrack, featuring the likes of Two Feet, Elbow and Renee Olstead, which complement the series beautifully. Sure, it’s melodramatic at times, but it’s well-executed entertainment.
It’s no secret that not everyone’s intentions are pure. The characters go behind other’s backs, leaking stories to The Times, being complicit in sexual conduct and offering promotions in exchange for silence. They all play nice right before stabbing each other in the back. Despite this, the characters are all complex and realistic human beings. It’s thrilling to watch them grow and change. It’s also hard to watch Mitch play the victim as he takes no responsibility for his actions and wants to fix his reputation — something sadly reflective of real life.
The Morning Show doesn’t have a perfect message, but it explores its point in a very compelling way. The last episode is an explosion as the consequences of everyone’s actions finally come to light, and Alex and Bradley have to decided whether or not they’re going to do the right thing. Considering how prevalent situations of sexual misconduct are within the film and television industry, this series is exactly what we need right now.