Why more people need to be talking about Apple TV’s The Morning Show
Esther Huntington-Whitely shares why Apple TV’s The Morning Show deserves to be watched
When I first watched Apple TV’s drama The Morning Show as it was being released in November of last year, it shook me to my very core; so I was similarly taken aback by its somewhat underwhelming reception. Staring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, among many other notable names and faces, and one of the first shows exclusively available on Apple’s new streaming service, this 10-part series follows the inside workings of a morning news show navigating the post-#MeToo era. Inspired by Brian Stelter’s book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV, and supposedly resembling the fallout of TV news anchor Matt Lauer in the wake of his accused inappropriate sexual behaviour, this show feels important for the historical moment in which it exists.
The show has received mixed reviews, with some criticising its unrealistically dramatic depiction of a topic too serious to be made entertaining, while others defend its no doubt ambitious but still crucial premise. Stuart Heritage for The Guardian commends Aniston’s revelatory performance – ‘to watch Aniston on The Morning Show is to resent Friends for robbing us of a truly incredible dramatic actor’  – but admits he had reservations about the show until the later episodes proved his doubt unfounded. On the other hand, Adam White for The Independent describes the show as ‘fraught with anxiety about what it is and who it’s for’, proposing that, ‘it is determined to talk about everything, but often says little at all’ . Director Mimi Leader’s response to the more negative reviews was as follows: ‘I think people didn’t know what to expect. There were a lot of expectations on the show… some people are rooting you on and some people are wanting you to fail’ . Inevitably, society cannot agree on the success or failure of The Morning Show. Yet, somewhere in the midst of this all, we seem to be missing the point.
Perhaps my own judgement of the show was clouded by the fact that I knew nothing about it before I started watching. In fact, when I first saw it advertised on the side of a bus, I thought it was a poster for an actual morning show special – inexplicably featuring the three most prominent actors alongside one another. Either way, what I was not prepared for was a commentary on the current cultural climate of the kind unseen since before #MeToo transformed our very understanding of show business. In one particularly poignant scene, before Carell’s character is revealed as the manipulative creep that he manages to convince even the audience into believing he is not, we see him having a conversation with his friend Dick Lundy (Martin Short). As the conversation progresses, and Dick alludes to sleeping with 15-year-olds on the basis that ‘there’s nothing sexy about consent’, Mitch tries to suggest that he is somehow above this behaviour because he is not an actual ‘predator’ but rather a successful man with an inherent need for extra-marital sex with colleagues who are evidently powerless against him.
Inevitably, society cannot agree on the success or failure of The Morning Show. Yet, somewhere in the midst of this all, we seem to be missing the point
One of the most harrowing scenes from the show, excluding the entire ‘wild’ finale in which an accumulation of all the most dramatic plotlines and relationship nuances finally come to head, is between Mitch and TMS subordinate Hannah (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). In this episode, we see the true definition of sexual misconduct not only as it exists outside of the law, but also within the confines of an overtly masculine workplace. The subsequent episodes show Mitch’s complete inability to acknowledge the situation for what it was – completely non-consensual and potentially life-ruining for both parties – as his understanding of sexual relationships are misconstrued by an assumption of his own indestructability. The consequences arising from this are devastating, arguably more than anything else on the show, and remind us of what is really at stake: people’s lives.
What struck me most about the show wasn’t what it failed to do, or what it could have done better, but instead why it feels like something everyone should be watching and talking about. Aside from some outstanding performances, most notably in my opinion by Billy Crudup as Cory Ellison, a UBA executive recently given charge of the networks news division, and Mark Duplass as Charlie ‘Chip’ Black, the show’s executive producer, The Morning Show’s $150m budget makes it significantly enjoyable to watch. However, with this genuine entertainment value comes an underlying seriousness that should not be overlooked when considering its overall impact. I can only hope that the next season brings with it more viewers who, alongside critics both good and bad, will continue to consider how and why shows like this are so important in shaping the society in which we live.