Apple officially got into the content streaming game last November, and if you are not an Apple user, it probably flew entirely under your radar. Apple TV+ is a service that is modeled more off of Amazon than Netflix, making its catalogue of existing film and TV a core part of its strategy. But while no one would expect any streaming service to come out of the gates with a hit like Netflix’s “House of Cards,” or Amazon’s “Man in the High Castle,” Apple has really captured lightning in a bottle with “The Morning Show.”
“The Morning Show” stars Jennifer Aniston as a co-host of the highest-rated and one of the longest running morning news shows in the country. The show and network are thrown into disarray when her co-host, Mitch (played brilliantly by Steve Carell), is exposed as having several inappropriate sexual encounters with co-workers and subordinates.
The writing is so airtight that all the drama feels simultaneously heavy and nuanced at the same time. The raw emotion surging through every encounter between characters comes accross as genuine and heartfelt, regardless of how politically correct it might be.
Steve Carrell evokes a surprising amount of pity for someone that is also unapologetically wrong in his actions. Rather than treating his character as a two-dimentional villain, a serious effort to sift through the debris of his destructive actions invites us to re-evaluate the #MeToo movement in all its complexity.
Jennifer Anniston also buries herself into the role of a professional journalist that knows her job inside and out, and knows how to go toe to toe with the men above her at the network. If she is meant to be a feminist icon, it is not immediately obvious. If anything, the shows seems to quietly suggest that she is interested in using feminist talking points to ease her conscience, which is guilty of having known about Mitch’s behavior and not doing enough about it.
Anniston’s Alex Levy is a woman that knows what she’s worth, but she also knows how the news business works. Where this show really sets itself apart from other shows like The Newsroom and Studio 60 is in the execution. While those shows also started with an explosive first episode, featuring the lone reporter that is willing the “tell it like it is,” leading to a much needed ratings boost for their show, The Morning Show takes the opposite approach.
The unflinchingly honest reporter in The Morning Show is Reese Witherspoon’s Bradley Jackson, and the complexity of her character is the crown jewel of the show. Other shows often portray the “honest reporter” as being some carbon copy of Sidney Lumet’s famous Howard Beale — whose distillation of people’s frustration with media was summed up in the famous line, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
That every rendition of this rebel reporter trope turns into trite nonsense after a few episodes is why it doesn’t work. Network did work, though, and that’s because it was satire. Every person in it was a caricature of real people doing the same things. What those other shows have attempted to do is make the honest reporter a real person, but with an agenda. The reason they fail is usually because what they think ought to happen to the person is not what would happen.
The Morning Show does have a very serious point to make, and it is illustrated perfectly with the opening credits, which feature colored balls interacting and moving about in accordance with various physical laws of motion. Essentially, the point to the show is that actions have consequences.
The only guiding principle to anything that happens on the show is that people will face the results of their actions, for better or worse. It is made all the better by the fact that the show does not need to resort to unnecessary subplots or gratuitous scenes of sex or violence to make this point. Whereas most shows would add a comic relief character or some unneeded love triangle, this show doesn’t need to go there.
In fact, if this show is any indication, it could be Apple’s way of pushing for a return to simple storytelling. What began with HBO’s trend of pushing the envelope because it could, eventually bled over into online streaming services which also felt required to cater to this need to provide content that was too risque or graphic to be seen on television.
Perhaps I’m reading to much into it, but because the show does not rely on over-the-top salaciousness and conspiracy to keep it interesting, it really proves itself to be one of the best new shows in a long while.
The realistic depiction of newspeople making rational decisions based on what is in each person’s best interest – and not necessarily because any of them are good or bad, per se — and always making them face the consequences of those actions, The Morning Show has a lot of wisdom to offer the contemporary landscape of toxicity in our media and online.