Apple entered the television streaming game with the launch of its own service, Apple TV+. “The Morning Show,” a drama led by Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, acts as the service’s most lucrative prospect in interesting viewers. The service debuted three of 10 episodes at launch.
“The Morning Show” is often a hyper-serious, drab miscalculation of what a post-#MeToo backstage television drama should be. It’s a fine show, but given the star caliber and subject matter, it’s a case of wasted potential.
“The Morning Show” takes place in a post-#MeToo world, where sexual harassment and assault victims publicized celebrity misconduct, such as the case of “The Today Show” host Matt Lauer. When morning show host Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) is fired for sexual misconduct, his co-host Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) and the rest of the production staff scramble for a fix.
When conservative news correspondent Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) becomes the subject of a viral video, The Morning Show executive producer Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup) recruits her for a guest spot on the show. In a whirlwind, Bradley lands herself the coveted co-host position at the hands of Alex.
“The Morning Show” is a mixed bag. The acting and character dynamics brought in by Aniston (“Friends,” “We’re the Millers”), Witherspoon (“Legally Blonde,” “Big Little Lies”) and Carell (“The Office,” “The 40 Year-Old Virgin”) are expectedly phenomenal, as is the gripping directing. Aside from the main three actors, Mark Duplass also stands out as producer Chip Black with some much-needed energy.
The show stumbles quite a bit elsewhere. With a huge ensemble, “The Morning Show” delivers under-baked characters in an overwhelming slew. Even after three full episodes, many of the main and recurring cast members remain forgettable and unnecessary entities to the show. Many share similar personalities, and trying to remember who’s who ultimately seems worthless. This problem doesn’t improve over the course of three episodes so it’s unlikely to vastly change by the 10th.
Similarly egregious, the show’s conflation of morning news programs to be a high stakes and intensely serious industry rings hollow. Shows such as “Good Morning America” and “The Today Show” certainly amass a multitude of viewers, but are hardly the crème de la crème of the entertainment industry. “The Morning Show” seems to forget that at times, which lessens the realism.
The show’s other big problem are the episodes’ roughly hour-long runtimes. A strict editor would have greatly sufficed in cutting out the fat. This is particularly noticeable in scenes that deal solely with some of the periphery characters. If the writers don’t want to make these characters even slightly engaging, then they shouldn’t bother dedicating vital screentime to their mundanities.
“The Morning Show” does occasionally poke fun at the relative unimportance of morning news stories, most often through Bradley. Still, it falls victim to taking itself too seriously. Relying on melodrama over dark comedy is a missed opportunity to utilize the show’s full potential, even though the comedic stars make great transitions into the dramatic field.
Where “The Morning Show” shines, though, it shines bright. Aniston plays the role of Alex with adept understanding and nuance. She adds immense dimension to the role, maximizing her as sympathetic, strong and utterly captivating.
Carell lights up his role as Mitch incredibly well, too. He brings likability to his morally gray character that enhances the show’s take on the #MeToo scandal to be more poignant and deep. Watching Mitch grapple with the dissolution of his career and image provides a fascinating segue away from the busy morning show production scenes and works as a strong balance.
The standout of the show is Witherspoon’s take on Bradley. A fish out of water in the big city corporate world, Bradley provides quite a bit of comic relief and energy to “The Morning Show.” While many of the characters feel entirely depthless and dull, Witherspoon’s portrayal has enough personality to carry just about any scene she’s in.
If the show can tighten its cast and runtimes, “The Morning Show” could truly become Apple’s breakout hit. As of now, it’s middling.
Aside from its star-studded cast, little about the show serves as a key persuading factor to subscribing to Apple TV+. It’s fine, but on a service that offers only nine shows at launch, fine just isn’t worth the price.
“The Morning Show” streams Fridays on Apple TV+. The first two episodes are currently streaming for free on the site. At launch, the service features nine series, including Jason Momoa-led “See” and Hailee Steinfeld-starring “Dickinson.” Subscriptions cost $4.99 a month.