In 2010, I began appearing on NBC’s “The Today Show”, CBS’s “The Early Show” and Australian TV’s top AM program “The Morning Show”. A film called “Morning Glory” was also released that year. It tackled the ratings game, the “news vs. entertainment” debate and the clashing of personalities on and off the air.
With AppleTV+’s flagship, fictional TV drama “The Morning Show” (not to be confused with the real one in Australia), it seems that nothing has changed in the past 9 years. These same concepts are flushed out again, though imperfectly.
If you’ve been wondering for the past two years, “Where in the world is Matt Lauer?”, it turns out he’s on “The Morning Show” – in the form of Steve Carell’s character. Mitch Kessler has been co-hosting “TMS” with Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) on the UBA network for the past 15 years. But when the first episode of “The Morning Show” begins, Kessler wakes up in his NYC apartment to the news that he’s been fired over sexual harassment allegations. Levy is equally stunned and has to put on a brave face and deliver the news to America..
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to just how much “The Morning Show” steals from the Matt Lauer “Today Show” meltdown. Over the first three episodes that AppleTV+ provided to critics in advance, there are a high number of obvious elements directly ripped from the headlines of that 2017 scandal, as well as those of Charlie Rose, Bill O’Reilly and even the Michael Strahan/Kelly Ripa split at “LIVE” in 2016.
Two or three years may not seem like a long time ago, but it is when it comes to telling stories on television. From that perspective, “The Morning Show” feels dated. Some moments are stale (a “Gone Viral” segment: really?). Others are truly inside baseball, like a scene with Carell complaining about a “Morals Clause”.
And the tone is similar to Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” (though the dialogue isn’t nearly as rapid-fire). Those in or fascinated with the television industry will be intrigued by “TMS” and may stick with it, if only for the star-power and high-quality production value. For the average person, there’s almost no level of attachment.
Aniston is the captain of the first episode. Her Levy comes-off as the most believable character. Carell and Reese Witherspoon, as unfiltered southern reporter Bradley Jackson, are much more over the top. Their scenes are uncomfortable and embarrassing to watch. Things don’t get much better for Witherspoon over the next two episodes – as her character gets rolled-up into an extreme scenario only designed on TV shows such as this one.
But Carell ends up being the one to watch. In the second episode (directed by Mimi Leder of “On the Basis of Sex”), he gets a couple chances to make valid – and some might say controversial – points about the #MeToo movement. And in the third episode (directed by “The Devil Wears Prada”’s David Frankel), Carell has a scene with a big-name celeb that’s the most eye-opening of the series so far.
It’s actually surprising how even-sided “The Morning Show” is when it comes to tackling sexual harassment, #MeToo and its impact on on-air personalities. That’s definitely the lasting draw for viewers to watch the entire first season of 10 episodes.
In an era when soap operas seem to be fading in popularity, AppleTV+ has dug the genre back up and given it a Morning TV facade. So, grab a cup of coffee, plop a seat on the couch and hold onto your remote because “The Morning Show” is quite a ride.
“The Morning Show” debuts this Friday, November 1st, on the brand-new AppleTV+ streaming service.