Instant Reaction: “The Morning Show” review on Apple TV+
Apple TV+ debuted on November 1, and The Morning Show was among its original programming. With a brilliant ensemble cast, knife-edge tension and bold but thoughtful thematic substance on complicated issues, its opening episode, “In the Dark Night of the Soul It’s Always 3:30 in the Morning,” really works.
Read on to learn more about the show, but be warned, there are spoilers to follow! Before doing so, check out some of the information on Apple’s new streaming venture from SNIPdaily:
- How to sign-up for Apple TV+
- Best Apple TV+ shows this month (November 2019)
- Apple TV+ “See” Episode 1 Review – “Godflame”
- Watch free Apple TV+ shows without signing up
What’s it about?
The Morning Show revolves around a news program that has to deal with the sudden dismissal of lead co-anchor Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) over sexual misconduct allegations.
That inciting incident happens in the first minutes of the episode, titled, “In the Dark Night of the Soul It’s Always 3:30 in the Morning.” And the pace doesn’t let up from there.
Mitch’s co-anchor of 15 years, Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston), is the central focus as she deals with the aftermath of the scandal. She’s suddenly thrust into the lead anchor role on her own.
Executives are scrambling to figure out what to do to keep the show’s momentum going. Alex has conflicted feelings about the situation. Then there’s the fiery Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), whose outburst at a coal mining protest goes viral and lands her an interview with Alex.
This pilot runs at an hour and three minutes, and does an exceptional job establishing complex character relationships and layers to the story.
Shades of Network commentary
The whole concept of Bradley landing on The Morning Show in the first place plays into the commentary that surfaces in the 1976 film Network. Yours truly really can’t pass up a chance to talk about this classic.
In that movie, Howard Beale (Peter Falk) essentially goes mad on air, and lands his own show and skyrocketing ratings as a result. Beale then delivers the type incisive, truthful commentary often shied away from on news programs. Even though there’s bias, it’s what the real person on TV really believes.
That’s where Bradley is coming from when she rips a coal miner protester for his ignorance and suggests his life, not the “fake news” she reports, is what’s really inauthentic. Her tirade is caught on camera by bystanders, but is initially presented in an intense, absolutely compelling close-up. It’s shades of Beale’s legendary “Mad as hell” rant.
Now, Network really leans into the satire and absurdity of these phenomena, but the film’s influence can be traced elsewhere here.
Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup) seems to represent at least to some extent an analog for Robert Duvall’s Network character, Frank Hackett. These men see the value in pushing entertainment and personality over “hard news.”
That’s a fine ideal to have, but it comes by proxy, with the priority being to entertain, not to give the people news. Hackett pushes Beale to host his own show; Ellison offers Bradley the shot at a big break.
Who shines brightest among the stars?
It’s hard to remember Aniston being much better as an actor than she is here. She gives a deeply vulnerable and moving performance, and Witherspoon is an absolute hurricane in her own right.
The highlight of the episode is the pair’s live, on-air interview. Bradley acquits herself well in the big TV spot, handles Alex’s hard questions with grace and lives up to her billing as a diehard reporter.
Carell doesn’t have as much to do as the other A-list actors in this first episode, yet what he does have illustrates how far from Brick Tamland and Evan Baxter he is in his return to the newsroom setting.
An unflinching, updated look at modern television
There are obvious overtones of the #MeToo movement in the main plot, and it’s impossible not to bring to mind the Today show sexual misconduct of Matt Lauer.
To the show’s credit, though, it goes deeper, and character beats and interactions create a ton of dramatic tension on what could’ve easily been a less nuanced story.
Mitch claims all his extramarital affairs were consensual. Alex seems to believe him. She’s more upset that he disrupted their on-air chemistry and potentially ruined her career, not just his.
Crudup’s Ellison is the president of UBA television and comes in to help clean up the mess. He says something to the effect of, “people get news in the palm of their hand. And it’s awful. But we’re addicted to it. When people watch TV, they don’t want that kind of news, they want to be entertained.”
The opportunity to bring Blake aboard to give the show new blood feels exploitative, morally dubious, and yet may be just what this program needs to rocket into a new, female-driven era, in Ellison’s eyes. He tells The Morning Show executive producer Chip Black (Mark Duplass) over drinks that he believes Levy has dropped off over the past five years.
This hints at the transience of the news industry that’s only been exacerbated in the 21st century, and the perpetual opportunist mindset, no matter how dark the circumstances.
“The Morning Show” verdict: BINGE
It’ll be interesting to see how the Kessler scandal is resolved. Carell will definitely have more to do in the next couple of episodes. He was shut in his house for the entire pilot. His wife also says she’ll be divorcing him.
Two of the show’s more fascinating early revelations come when Alex visits him at home. They discuss a brief romantic past together that clearly didn’t work out. Then, Mitch drops this bomb: before he was ousted, the network was looking to replace her.
That aligns with what Ellison says. Alex doesn’t believe Mitch, but, well, maybe he isn’t trying to just mess with her head. Maybe he’s still looking out for her.
Reviews of the show have been largely mixed thus far, with a 59 percent critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes through three of 10 planned episodes to be released. However, after the first hour or so of material, it’s safe to say The Morning Show is at least off to a strong start.