Apple TV Series Review: 'The Morning Show'

August 13, 2020
Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston

WE FINALLY got to watch the Apple TV mini-series “The Morning Show” which friends have long been urging to see and it’s really one of the best show we’ve seen lately. The stars alone are enough reason to watch it: Jennifer Aniston who was last seen doing a series in the hit comedy “Friends” (that ran for 10 seasons and ended in 2004) and Reese Witherspoon who’s been doing a lot of TV these days like the two seasons of “Little Big Lies” and “Little Fires Everywhere” where she played essentially the same role: a controlling, domineering alpha female.

“The Morning Show” actually has two basic storylines. First is the rivalry between two female hosts, a veteran and a newbie that echoes “All About Eve”, and the other concerns a MeToo movement/Harvey Weinstein story about sexual harassment in the workplace. 

Jennifer plays Alex Levy, the anchor of a breakfast news program called “The Morning Show” of TMS, whose co-host of 15-years, Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell), has just been fired for involvement in a sexual scandal (shades of Matt Lauer, the morning show host fired in real life in 2017 due to a sexual misconduct.) Her world suddenly turns upside down and everyone in the show is shocked, including executive producer Chip Black (Mark Duplass).

Cut to West Virginia, a temperamental field reporter for a regional TV station, Bradley Jackson (Reese), is terribly annoyed with a coal mine protester and delivers a political rant that was recorded on video and goes viral, giving her instant fame. Since “TMS” just lost an anchor and Bradley suddenly gained millions of viewers, we immediately know where this is all heading. 

Bradley is confronted by her boss and resigns, but she gets invited to come to New York to be a guest in “TMS”. Alex interview her and initially looks down on her, even doubting if Bradley didn’t really know that her outburst was being filmed. Bradley manages to successfully to hold her own against Alex that Alex later admits: “You’re good.” 

The head of network news, Cory (Billy Crudup), calls Bradley and asks to meet with her. He obviously believes in her and arranges for her to also meet with Chip Black, who was so antagonistic to Bradley that she answers him back and gives him a piece of her mind. Bradley is sure she has ruined her chances of working with “TMS” and is about to return to West Virginia, but Cory invites her to attend an event that honors Alex as a journalist. 

Alex has earlier talked to Mitch and told her that network executives are actually planning to replace her. It turns out her contract is about to be renewed and she’s insisting to have a say on approval of her co-host. At the event, Cory makes Bradley seat next to Alex and when Cory scoffs at Alex’ demand to approve who will be replacing Mitch as her co-host, during her acceptance speech for her award, she suddenly announces that Bradley will be her new co-host.

Bradley is shocked and is not even sure if she’d accept the job. Network big boss Fred Micklen (Tim Irwin) is furious with what Alex did but afraid to lose face, had to go along. But Cory is optimistic that Bradley and her being so candid and outspoken will be a chance to re-invent the show in the face of the Mitch Kessler scandal. 

Bradley makes her debut in the show but, during her introduction, she resents the manufactured information about her happy childhood and reveals that she actually struggled and even had an abortion at 15. This revelation infuriates Fred who thinks it would damage the network’s reputation, but younger members of the audience who are pro-choice back up Bradley and the ratings of the show even improved for her being so transparent. 

One of Mitch’s accusers is interviewed live on the show. For the sake of objectivity, Alex is persuaded to let Bradley do the interview. Bradley is instructed to just strictly stick to the script but, so typical of her, she junks it and asks more revealing questions that the accuser opens up and reveals more than what the show’s producers have planned.

Meantime, an investigation is conducted about Mitch’s case and it seems everyone in the network denies any knowledge of his misconduct, including top boss Fred who actually has deliberately helped in covering up his sexual crimes. Mitch, in an effort to save himself and crucify Fred for also being guilty, offers Bradley the chance to interview him. 

But she agrees only if he could find a witness to corroborate his allegations that top executives are also culpable in what he did. There’s one entire flashback episode set in Las Vegas during the time of the deadly shooting there. 

At first, we’re wondering why they included this, but it is there where Mitch would find his witness, Hannah (Gugu Mbatha Raw), a pretty talent coordinator working with him. But it also confirmed viewers' suspicions that he is indeed a remorseless sexual predator who’s convinced he didn’t do anything wrong since it’s all consensual.

The narrative gets more heated as Bradley gains more fans and Alex gets more professionally jealous with her meteoric rise that she engineers how to get rid of her, conspiring with their boss, Fred, who, in turn, wants to replace Chip with a new producer. 

The series reaches its climax when Bradley is about to interview Mitch secretly on cam in the show, but things didn’t go as planned and pandemonium ensues. We don’t know if they plan to have a Season 2 for this, but we wish there’s an episode that would tie up all the loose ends. We really want to see Fred being given his walking papers to be replaced by Cory as network head.

More than anything else in the show, it’s a pleasure watching both Jennifer and Reese giving their all in their respective roles. Jennifer has more highlights and she’s just flawless. She’s given a family of her own as Alex is married to an academician (Jack Davenport). But they’re actually just staying together for the sake of their daughter and to maintain Alex’s untarnished reputation. 

Her husband soon wants to officially divorce her and this is a big dilemma for Alex. She’s also torn between her loyalty to Mitch as a longtime friend and to her own integrity as someone who has willingly condoned his indiscretions all these years. Jennifer also shows here that she can sing in a lovely duet with Billy Crudup doing “No One’s Gonna Harm You” from “Sweeney Todd”.

Reese is also a force to reckon with as Bradley, who comes from a dysfunctional family. Her drunkard dad is imprisoned when she rats on him for being involved in a hit and run case. Her brother is a hopeless drug addict and her mom is a mess. 

She doesn’t believe in marriage and would rather just go for one-night stands with strangers. But her being recalcitrant and someone who fights hard for what she believes is right is a given. 

Both Jennifer and Reese hurdle their roles beautifully and they’re superbly supported by Mark Duplass as the beleaguered executive producer, Billy Crudup as the wily news head who has a few schemes of his own while the double crossing and backstabbing multiply, Steve Carell as the fallen but still very defensive anchor, and Gugu Mbatha Raw as the ill-fated victim.

Some mini-series are boring to watch because you can feel the padding that they insert just to extend it to 8 or 10 episodes. But here, all the ten episodes are exciting to watch as they have an infectious vitality. Wala kang itatapon, even that scene between Steve as Mitch and Martin Short who is himself accused of sexual harassment in real life. Short is later given a great song-and-dance number on Mitch’s birthday and it’s nice that this show gave him another chance to show his talents overshadowed by the sex charges that hounded him.