I Just Finished “The Morning Show” and…

I finally finished The Morning Show and yikes, this show was not as good as I believed it would be!

I know the flagship series from Apple TV+ was released in the fall so I should’ve already completed the series (Apple sends me notifications about every other aspects of my life, but not when their series drops new episodes, make it make sense!?) but I don’t see the amazing show that many others did with The Morning Show.

For me, the acting didn’t draw me in by the top-billed talent. I’ve never been a big fan of Jennifer Aniston as I think her, and her career-making turn on Friends, are completely overrated — she’s just not my cup of tea, so maybe I came in initially biased. She gives a decent performance as Alex Levy, a woman whose livelihood in the limelight is in jeopardy as her co-worker gets caught in a sexual harassment workplace scandal. She’s struggling to connect with her new co-anchor, all while worrying about being pushed out of her job. Alex is going through a divorce and having issues connecting with her daughter, all while being questioned on whether she knew about the aforementioned workplace scandal. It’s a lot for Aniston to take on. I know many people raved about Aniston’s performance, but she just didn’t resonate with me. Her monologues lacked the emotion and intensity needed in this high profile project to lure me in to empathize with Alex the way the show wants you to. Viola Davis, Laura Linney, Nicole Kidman and Elisabeth Moss constantly give me goosebumps when they’re delivering monologues and thus making their performances more believable and enjoyable. These ladies command the screen and I don’t get the same feeling when Aniston is on camera.

Reese Witherspoon’s Bradley Jackson is a character you want to root for. A young, ambitious reporter thrust into the media spotlight after going viral. She just wants to do true journalistic work, but restrained by corporate red tape and pre-existing behind-the-scenes drama. That being said, Witherspoon’s portrayal of Jackson that doesn’t connect with me, either. It may be the fact that I’m Witherspoon’d out from her extremely busy television slate of the last few years between Big Little Lies and Little Fires EverywhereThe Morning Show was my least favorite performance from Witherspoon as of late. 

The supporting cast and storylines are what saves The Morning Show. The Alex/Bradley drama isn’t enticing one bit. It’s no shocker that a woman of Alex’s caliber wouldn’t be threatening by a younger woman coming into her territory. I completely lose any sympathy for Alex because she brought Bradley onto the show in what she thought was a clever ruse, only to bite her in the ass later. Karma in its truest form. It takes a few episodes to really focus on Charlie (Mark Duplass), Hannah (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Mia (Karen Pittman), all extremely integral parts to the story, and when we finally reach the meat of their stories, we’re rewarded for the wait. 

I specifically didn’t like the narrative around Daniel (Desean Terry), a complete misuse of this character. Audra (Mindy Kaling) attempting to lure Daniel to a competing morning show pained me as I watched this Black man, who clearly isn’t happy with his position on the show, choosing to be loyal to a sinking ship because “The Morning Show is in a bad place.” Come on brotha, they’d drop you faster than an anchor off the side of a boat if necessary. It irked me his allegiance was with the show, and not with himself — sacrificing his potential happiness, creative freedom and career trajectory in the process. My suspicions were confirmed when Alex schemed to use Daniel as a pawn in her game of chess, dangling the co-anchor position, what he’d been so desperately seeking, right in front of him while she’s coordinating a hostile takeover. Didn’t surprise me one bit. By season’s end, we learn Daniel holds off on taking meetings with Audra, thinking he’ll be joining Alex at the desk.Seeing how the season ended, there’s going to be no room for Daniel in the position he promised and is going to regret staying loyal to the show. Will he out Alex for quietly plotting a hostile takeover? I’d like to see that!

My biggest gripe about The Morning Show was the writing. Yikes… this show is terribly written, which is a real shame because something great could have been said here. Everything about The Morning Show seemed to be surface level, never delving deep down into why this kind of conduct is not only unacceptable, but why it’s gone on for so long in organizations all over the country — being a “boys club” is no longer an acceptable excuse.

Upon its release in November 2019, #MeToo was at its height and powerful men were being held accountable in all industries over years of misconduct that went unnoticed. Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) seemed to be a dead ringer for ousted Today Show anchor Matt Lauer. Charlie acknowledges the issues behind the scenes, but only commenting “we’re working to fix the culture.” By the end of the season the main focus was one team rushing to out-screw the other. It was about the story, it was rarely about Hannah and her victimization by Mitch, or by the company trying to buy her silence with a promotion— not once, but twice. She didn’t want to be involved, and only after her tragic suicide did Alex and Bradley decided to do the right thing — coming forward on air about the behaviors going on at the show and UBS. Too bad Hannah had to die for them to finally do the right thing.

The Morning Show also failed to capitalize on saying something deeper and making more of an impact about what goes on behind the scenes at these large news corporations and the decisions that go into what content goes out for its viewers. This is especially disappointing because The Morning Show is based off the book “Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV” by Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s Reliable Sources. With Stelter’s insiders lens of cable and morning news, with which The Morning Show is based, I hoped for more depth on this subject seeing that Stelter is credited as a writer on all 10 episodes of the first season, but alas that’s not what we got.

Beyond that, the dialogue was so bad, it’s laughable. It lacked depth, imagine and was continuously lazy throughout its entire season to the point where I simply couldn’t take the show seriously by its midpoint. There are good ways to do a behind the scenes look at the workings of a television show (The Newsroom, Sports Night) and there are bad ways (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip), The Morning Show falls in the latter. Maybe season 2 can change my mind, if I stick around that long.

As for its Emmys chances, it’ll get in a few categories without a doubt. Jennifer Aniston will for sure get a nomination for lead actress in a drama series, especially after her Screen Actors Guild win for this role. I’ll maintain my stance on Aniston not taking a real bite out of this role. Even in her final moments of the season, the climatic conclusion of everything unfolding live in television, her and Bradley risking it all by exposing the misconduct of Mitch and the network who were complicit in keeping everything silent, I still think she turned in a lackluster and lifeless performance. In the supporting categories, naturally Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell and Billy Crudup are being thrown around due to their billing status on the show, but the supporting Emmy recognition undoubtedly deserves to go Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Mbatha-Raw’s performance was chilling to watch in the flashback episode (that tastelessly worked the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting into its storyline) where Mitch sexually assaults Hannah. Hannah in turn storms into Fred’s (Tom Irwin) office, exposing Mitch’s Vegas indiscretions expecting him to take action since he’s the network president. But no, he offers her a promotion, sweeping Hannah’s assault under the rug. On top of that, Mitch accuses Hannah of using him that night to advance her career when he needs her to corroborate the story that he’s concocted in his head. The sheer and utter white man audacity of Mitch, it’s utterly despicable. Between that scene and her performance in the season finale leading up to her untimely death, if any actor on The Morning Show deserves any sort of Emmy nomination, it’s not Aniston or Witherspoon or Carell, is Gugu Mbatha-Raw!

I’m (apprehensively) predicting it to land a best drama slot, especially since the field was recently expanded to 8 nominees. It’s a shame Marcia Gay Harden appeared in 6 out of the 10 episodes, rendering her ineligible for guest actress (since she appears in over half of the series episodes), so her subtlety amazing performance will go unrecognized because there’s no chance she cracks the stacked supporting actress in a drama category. I know it doesn’t deserve any writing nominations, because that’s where I think the majority of the faults lie within the series, but I’m not an Emmy voter. 

The release of the second season of The Morning Show is to be determined at this point, but I admit I’ll be back to watch… at least for a few episodes. If only to see the fallout of Alex and Bradley’s stunt, and see if justice is served in Hannah’s suicide. Emmy nominations are Tuesday, July 28th and I’ll be eager as everyone else to see exact which nominations The Morning Show will secure. 

All 10 episodes of The Morning Show are now streaming on Apple TV+.

Follow me on Twitter @TVTalkWithJWalk

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