Over the weekend we finished the final episodes of season two of The Morning Show. I liked this show a lot. It’s a smart soap-opera, a compelling and very straight-faced satire.
The Morning Show debuted in 2019 as a flagship for then-new streaming platform, Apple TV+ and its stacked cast – Steve Carrell, Jennifer Aniston, Reece Witherspoon – was certainly a big draw. The show was Apple’s big statement that they’d be doing original content. And they’d be taking their time, bringing in big names. No way were they going to botch it the way YouTube Premium did when it soft-launched original content. (Okay, it gave us Cobra Kai, but that was it).
I didn’t watch The Morning Show for a while. It didn’t make me sign up to Apple+ but then, earlier this year I decided to give it a go. I was instantly pleased I did.
Season one told a version of #MeToo that was loosely based on Matt Lauer. Carrell played Mitch Kessler, veteran broadcaster, nice guy persona. It’s revealed he’s a creep. A monster. Aniston is co-anchor of the show. Her Alex Levy is Katie Couric with more grit. Witherspoon plays Bradley Jackson. She replaces Kessler and shoots to overnight fame from relative obscurity.
The Morning Show’s first season was smart and played fast. It was easy to see why it had worked, had drawn people in. There’s a very strong support cast (Billy Crudup, Mark Duplasss – season two adding Greta Lee and Julianna Margulies) and we were being hurtled back through a very real problem and seeing a fictional take on it. The Morning Show’s great strength to me is how it plays behind the beat of current events. When it debuted, the #MeToo headlines had happened (yes, they’re still happening – sadly). But the action that inspired the show was in the recent past. We could watch it the way you might tune in to the filmed adaptation of a book you enjoyed. We know the outcome – but we want to be reminded of how it played it. It’s a refresher course. It’s a pat on the back for being vaguely aware of what is about to happen. It’s cliff’s notes. Homework you can, erm, do in front of the telly…
Season two was delayed because of the Covid pandemic and lockdowns. So when it finally debuted – less than three months ago – it takes Covid-19 as part of its story. Mitch is to the side, he’s escaped to Italy to try to live away from either delivering or being headlines. He might seem like superfluous content in the show to begin with, but I liked the way he was dealt with – the damage he’s done is permanent reminder. And we see how its shadow is now cast over the show, over Aniston’s character in particular and the threat of a tell-all book hovers over the episodes. So does Covid. Set in early 2020 we’re taken back to when it was a near-mythical thing; mystery disease. Insinuations of a plague met with racist undertones. And people almost guffawing at the idea they’ll be wearing masks, no way will their life be inconvenienced.
You might wonder why we need reminders of a thing we’re living with – but The Morning Show’s behind-the-beat play-by-play gives us pause to think about how quickly we speed through the headlines. They happen. We move on. We might wave a flag here or there, but we are so self-obsessed as to just sleepwalk through the drama.
At the same time, The Morning Show knows it’s snackable TV for a bingeing culture. It isn’t trying to be cleverer than it is. There is melodrama, this most certainly isn’t perfect TV. It will never be talked about the way so many of us talk about Succession. The way I talked about White Lotus. The way so many of you still talk about The Wire. Or Breaking Bad. The Sopranos, etc…
It is second-tier in that sense.
But you need those sorts of shows.
The big dilemma though – and it is the constant complaint with modern TV – is that you could see The Morning Show auditioning for a potential season three as the second series played out. That always bugs me. Season one was MeToo, season two had Covid as a background player, while it dealt with fallout from season one and explored the sub-theme of cancel culture. A third season will need to be more current, won’t get to play the trick of reminding us of material from the recent-past. Will need to be more reactive in the moment. This isn’t a bad thing – and might change the tone of the show for good in some people’s eyes and minds.
The bigger worry is seeing The Morning Show just becoming furniture. I sit and blob on the couch to watch these things so that I can sit on the couch and blog about them as they finish. I get the irony, but I hate seeing the TV shows I like just become something that’s there. Something to do.