The Morning Show
Cast – Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, Mark Duplass, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Billy Crudup
Sleek but slightly superficial, it’s sort of fitting that The Morning Show is one of the flagship programmes that Apple chose to launch its streaming service with. Starring the distractingly good-looking Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon in lead roles, its glossy aesthetic often becomes a major obstacle in truly admiring the weighty themes at play beneath the surface.
A morning news show is brought to its knees after allegations of sexual misconduct are made against one of its veteran anchors. Knee-jerk reactions ensure that Mitch Kessler (played by the brave Steve Carell) is kicked out overnight, statements are made by the network dissociating from his actions, and his co-workers are left to pick up the pieces.
Watch The Morning Show trailer here
The Morning Show, to its credit, isn’t a straightforward examination of the #MeToo movement, but armed with a couple of years of hindsight, more complicated than you’d expect. For instance, in her statement to the American public announcing Mitch’s departure, his longtime co-host Alex (played by Jennifer Aniston), chooses her words carefully in denouncing his actions, but expresses warmth for the man she thought she knew. In a more incendiary moment, the show’s executive producer, Chip, goes on a rant about how unfortunate he feels it was that the movement was tried in the court of public opinion.
But nothing will leave you more torn than Mitch’s explanation for his actions. So what if he had a few affairs, he asks in one scene. He never raped anyone, and some of the women in fact came onto him. He is, he believes, just like any middle-aged man in America. Humanising a person accused of sexual misconduct, especially in the current climate, is a near impossible task. The wounds are too raw; lessons are still being learnt. But as conflicted as The Morning Show might leave you with your emotions regarding Mitch, you’ll have to agree, at the very least, that not everyone can be pooled into the same pile as the Harvey Weinsteins of the world.
Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell in a still from Apple TV+’s The Morning Show.
To this end, the show squeezes in a scene in which Mitch and an old filmmaker friend of his discuss the finer details of the #MeToo movement over a game of tennis. The filmmaker, played by Martin Short, was among the ‘first wave’ of showbiz personalities to be accused, a predator with a history of inappropriate behaviour. In the second wave, Mitch says, they came for the powerful. He considers himself a part of this group. The third wave, he is convinced, will be against the average loser. And who’s going to stand up for them?
Steve Carell is fantastic in the role, bringing the perfect balance of entitlement and dignity to Mitch. He is mostly isolated from the central plot line, which offers a behind-the-smiles look at how a news show is produced, and how the scandal opens the floor up for cutthroat office politics.
And although this is very much a two-hander between Witherspoon and Aniston, whose reliably strong performances justify the $2 million per episode that Apple reportedly paid them, The Morning Show surrounds its lead stars with a sea of excellent actors such as Mark Duplass, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nestor Carbonell. Billy Crudup’s performance as the smarmy head of the news division is a great example of the sort of tonal balancing act The Morning Show is attempting to pull off. Neither is it an outright comedy, nor is all that dark a drama. It lies somewhere in between, at odds with the other, like your opinion of Mitch Kessler.
This review is based on the first three episodes of the show