By Michela Arlia
In a world where streaming services are quickly phasing out cable television, it can be difficult to keep up with all the different shows and movies that are made available on a rolling basis. It almost makes you feel bad if you aren’t caught up with everything, but amongst all the popular and hot-topic programs out there, you’ll always be able to dig around for something that captures your attention.
Upon my own digging, I stumbled upon “The Morning Show” during the long quarantine days of March and April 2020. First streaming on Apple TV in November of 2019, I was a little late to the party, but nonetheless, I decided to delve into the drama series.
The show tells the story of a national early morning program with the same title, giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look into scandals, negative media attention, and what it’s like for talk show hosts to have their names smeared and struggle to clear them. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Billy Crudup, Steve Carell, and many more, the show pulls topics straight from today’s headlines to springboard the plot further along.
At first glance, I automatically thought this could be a spoof or retelling of the scandal with Matt Lauer on the Today Show, who was terminated on grounds of sexual misconduct and assault allegations. As someone who followed the real-life scandal of the anchor closely, I couldn’t believe how accurately they depicted certain things in the lead anchor, Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell), and his involvement in sexual affairs along with the amount of distrust and backstabbing done by the cast of characters.
The first season was intriguing and intense, yet not completely binge-worthy. Given the heavy topics embedded in the show, I initially thought it was wise to watch one to two episodes at a time, which lasted me a few weeks, but the second season has been an entirely different story so far.
With the second season starting this September, once again I was late to start watching, but once I was able to, I couldn’t help but binge.
The show was able to continue stringing along with the drama behind the camera that was left off at the end of season one and pulled more events from more recent headlines. Season two now tackles COVID-19 as it creeps upon the world at the beginning of 2020, and throws yet another wrench in the plans of the cast and plotline.
With leading ladies such as Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon starting their careers from iconic characters such as Rachel Green in “Friends” (1994-2004) and Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde” (2001), it was hard for me to see how these two not only would portray strong-willed and independent women, but also how their on-screen chemistry would work well together.
From the very beginning of season one, I was not surprised to find how the two could not be on more opposite sides. While they argue like cat and dog, they somehow seem to complement one another. Where one actress leaves off in heightened emotion and action, the other picks it right back up in the following scene.
Amongst the clear power struggle the two women go through, the show does a great job at highlighting a woman’s perspective not just on camera, but behind closed doors, as a true retelling of what women go through emotionally is carried out. Having Mimi Leder, a female director, really helps bring forward those subtle characteristics of women that tend to be overlooked.
A constant message is portrayed from just these two women alone that really resonated with me. Topics and themes aside, having these two women fight for what they want and exactly how they want it, yet only showing their vulnerability in private, is something that made me reflect on my personality.
Bottom line is that these two women know how to get things done and tend to earn respect while doing it, something I always aspire to do. It was nice to see that reflection of a character on TV instead of the stereotypical woman who is dramatic or cries a lot.
While the show does have many strong suits, the writing often lacks. A clear example of this would be in season two (spoilers ahead), where Aniston’s character asks to drink from Carell’s character’s water bottle. While a normally harmless occurrence, this request happens in the midst of an at-home quarantine after Carell’s character had been exposed to COVID-19 in Italy.
While this clearly will be setting some conflict up in the near future of the series, I questioned why it was so blatant. Having to insert the pandemic into the show seemed suitable enough, but this scene and comment only felt like it was stating the obvious. If only they would have smoothed down the edges of that dialogue, it could have come off more naturally.
No piece of art or entertainment can be perfect, as someone will always have something to say (guilty), but the positives largely outweigh the negatives in “The Morning Show,” and as the season begins to come to a close, I hope that the power struggles and twists in the storyline continue to surprise me and any other viewers watching.