Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston excel in Apple TV+’s first foray into original programming
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Billy Crudup, Mark Duplass, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Néstor Carbonell, Karen Pittman, Bel Powley, Desean Terry, Jack Davenport, and Steve Carell
With the casting of high-profile names such as Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell with the advent of Apple’s TV streaming service, one could be forgiven for imagining that Apple was shelling out for big names in the hopes that this would draw people in as new subscribers. Obviously, these sorts of decisions are, sceptically, done with the aim of enticing more viewers to the show, but that does not mean that The Morning Show scrimps on its dramatic and consuming storytelling. It demands an awful lot from the viewer within its ten-episode run, tackling hard issues and with a consistent level of tension throughout.
The Morning Show tells the story of the downfall of co-anchor to the eponymous breakfast news program Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, and draws heavily upon the true story of Matt Lauer’s fall from grace from NBC’s Today show. He is replaced by Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), a field reporter who has a history of impulsive decision making on air, which is thought to make good TV with her headstrong, forthright attitude, though she clashes with remaining co-host Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston), who feels her career is under threat, and perhaps knows more than she lets on about the accusations levied against friend and former colleague Kessler.
Throughout the series, the power plays and complicity that accompany creating, perpetuating and normalising sexual exploitation and abuse in the workplace are meaningfully examined, whilst also maintaining sympathy for the victims of sexual assault. The show also taps into the factors involved in preventing victims from speaking up against their abusers, their lack of ability to find support amongst their peers, as well as the difficulties with gaining closure and normalcy in the aftermath.
The cast consistently knock it out of the park with their performances too. Reese Witherspoon, a seasoned performer in TV drama, predictably shines, grounding the series with her tempestuous, measured portrayal of Bradley Jackson. Jennifer Aniston is more revelatory here, making the audience doubtless wonder why she’s been saddled with B-list comedy movies for so long when she has brilliant dramatic chops as well. The many layers that she is required to adequately portray Alex Levy are simply sublime and she’s a consistently great watch. Steve Carell is also suitably compelling as the disgraced Mitch Kessler, and Billy Crudup is a tornado of chaotic energy as studio executive Cory.
The Morning Show is tense throughout, in the way that it examines the politics behind the scenes of the news program, as people plot and scheme for their own ends and means, but also through the sheer effort required in gathering information and intelligence necessary to dismantle a corrupt hierarchy. The entire series is strewn with dramatic conversations and on-air interviews to make the audience hold their breath in stunned anticipation.
The finale episode has a real sense of breakneck, tense drama throughout as dramatic stakes continue to get progressively higher and higher, culminating in a euphoric, jaw dropping final moment that shatters the status quo wide open in preparation for a second season. The Morning Show is practically worth the price of an Apple TV subscription on its own.
The Morning Show is streaming now on Apple TV+.