The Morning Show (“In the Dark Night of the Soul It’s Always 3:30 in the Morning”)

Season 1, Episode 1
Date of release: November 1, 2019 (tv+)

A new television streaming network goes live and I was actually alive enough to watch one of their first offerings on the day of, because for some reason I was crazy enough to do it, even though I was not interested in doing it. Yet, THE MORNING SHOW needed to go straight into my brain via my eyeballs and ears, because the television (cable) news business has been fascinating to me ever since the 2016 presidential election, which is when I started following the business a little bit, and more and more with each month that followed. You could say that Orange Hitler Donald Trump made me hot again for a show set in a fictionalized version of American news business, after Aaron Sorkin’s THE NEWSROOM didn’t make it for very long, was very liberal, and everyone hated it (thank the heavens I’m not everyone).

But because THE MORNING SHOW can’t just be about the titular weekday morning program resembling GOOD MORNING AMERICA to NBC’s TODAY (for the life of me I can’t remember the proper title for the CBS morning show) as it’s not written by Sorkin, creator Jay Carson and developer Kerry Ehrin included the #MeToo movement into the show’s initial premise, because apparently there is nothing better than to distance themselves from being a Sorkin show as far as possible while also catching some of the real-life movements that have gotten the public’s attention, that have given rise and awards to journalists and reporters. After all, in this political climate with the #MeToo movement blowing strong winds into your sails, THE MORNING SHOW seems like the perfect television drama for the streaming world, packed with an excellent cast, streaming on a beloved multi-billion dollar company’s new service, which you get free for one year when you by a new phone of theirs, because why would you not fork over another hundred bucks for upgraded AirPods while also watching a pretty dark television drama about divided political times in the #MeToo era of guys being fucking assholes?

It’s hard to look at yourself in the mirror during scandal-ridden times.

A few times throughout this episode I wished that someone would have taken some of the Sorkin touch into the script and put some light comedy into the story, just to remind the audience that THE MORNING SHOW must not necessarily be about the downfall of Alex’s television career caused by the never saturated sex drive of her on-air partner. The show would be a little less serious in this very serious climate of lies and deception through cable news if it would make fun of its business or maybe even have a character readily available to quip out some jokes every once in a while. It’s what I loved about THE NEWSROOM (I was probably the only one), and it’s what I have been missing over the course of these 63 minutes. It doesn’t necessarily mean though that THE MORNING SHOW is not a television drama worth letting into your household: If there is interest for cable news drama set in the #MeToo era while Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon play ball and decide who can act out their characters the most crazy, this show is definitely for you. But if you fear all the darkness and male business terror coming left and right at the women in this place of employment that makes their male suits full of ego and horrible attitude hundreds of millions of dollars per month, then let it be a guarantee that you will get exhausted by the whole thing like Bradley during the coal demonstration in West Virginia. Why even let yourself be horrified by the ugliness of this world when eleven days later, Disney+ opens their business and brings to you all the preachy and romanticized family stuff you have been craving for since November of 2016?

THE MORNING SHOW was quite schizophrenic for me. As mentioned already, I was missing the touch of Aaron Sorkin, but the show could still be something of a spiritual successor of THE NEWSROOM, let alone Sorkin’s idea of what things are like behind the scenes of a fictional television show that uses the current political climate as basis for their stories. Aniston and Witherspoon are excellent enough to carry their show on their own, which they kind of did with this episode, as Steve Carell had as few minutes of screentime as possible (making me wonder how his character is being woven into the narrative from here on), while I can only hope that the crowd of supporting characters will get as much attention as Sorkin managed to do in his works (I can’t seem to shake my expectations for THE MORNING SHOW to become another THE NEWSROOM — I must resist to get disappointed by the end of the following episode). The writing has to stay sharp from here on, because you cannot make a joke out of the #MeToo movement, let alone alienate conservative viewers who may have risked a look simply due to the cast. And besides that, it’s hard to do the #MeToo movement properly in a fictional world, considering the movement is still strong and still crossing out names in the entertainment business while also slowly changing it through protest — the recent and still ongoing NBC News kerfuffle following the release of Ronan Farrow’s book being the most prominent example right now.

It’s hard to face the viral clip of your meltdown.

And the writers won’t even have it this hard to make a great show out of their two premises. Just look at what is happening in real life, how journalists were handing the crisis in their own way, and suddenly Alex Levy will not just be the host of a weekdaily morning news and entertainment show trying to deal with the fallout of losing her on-air partner and be engulfed in stereotypical television drama plots, but could actually be as real of a fictional journalist as possible. Let’s go back to the aforementioned NBC News kerfuffle and remember what Rachel Maddow did on her show in October of 2019 when she had Ronan Farrow as guest to talk about how much it hurts a news division when it does not handle sexual allegations well: Maddow went down on her executives, criticized their moves (or the lack thereof) and essentially proved that just because you work for shitty people, it does not mean you have to shut up about them. Remembering Maddow’s way of speaking truth to her audience, I could easily see Aniston’s character do the same, because one thing is almost for granted: The sexual harassment allegations against Mitch Kessler won’t be the only ones in the narrative of the show. You have one guy whose career is being derailed by allegations like these? There sure as hell are a few more guys who are probably sweating right about now, including the executives who think of women as sex objects only and therefore cast them into morning shows by looks first and journalistic talents last. This is my hope for the show to not lose the #MeToo premise after this episode, and this is me thinking that THE MORNING SHOW is going to be so much better off when it remains in the real world. Yes, it makes the show automatically darker and more serious, with comedic moments almost being out of place for stories like these, but it would give the show importance beyond being the main staple of Apple TV on their launch date. The company got out eyeballs because of the cast, now it needs to find reason to stay in our lives after our first impressions have been put into words on social media.