This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the TV show being covered here wouldn’t exist.
The Morning Show, an Apple TV+ original starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, has a way of making audiences feel like they’re plunged in icy water. Maybe it’s the stark set, full of fluorescent lights and shades of dark blues. Perhaps it’s the chillingly great performances from the leading ladies, already a staple of iconic television shows and films, greatly supported by newlywed Billy Crudup and Past Lives breakout Greta Lee. Or, it’s the obvious choice—the fact that you’re can never forget the plot of the show is happening in the now, addressing news, hot-button topics, and societal anxieties that continue to plague our world and nation today.
Thankfully, though, the two-episode premiere of the third season skated right past the Season 2 finale, which ended on the verge of the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning with a two-year time jump and only alluding to the pandemic—such as getting back into work, some employees still remote, and the lack of human connection which fundamentally altered almost every relationship, friendship, and self—The Morning Show gracefully alleviates audiences of having to relieve a trauma wound that is only just beginning to heal.
Of course, just because COVID-19 gets a breather doesn’t mean that The Morning Show spares any other recent or current event from becoming a topic on both the show and the multiple shows-within-shows that mimic real-life evening and morning news outlets. Granted, this is how The Morning Show began and garnered such popularity and success. Their first season and the entire series premise of a top news anchor abusing his power and sexually assaulting female employees eerily mirrors the fall from grace of the formerly-lauded Matt Lauer of The Today Show.
The theme of men in power abusing their godlike influence, though, is still a theme running through the third season, as exemplified by series newcomer, Paul Marks, played with effortless cool by Jon Hamm. Obviously modeled off of tech executives such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk—the Hyperion One flight might as well have been SpaceX—Marks is initially introduced as the head of a potential merger option for the UBA network. But his shady dealings with Crudup’s Cory Ellison, along with the multiple comments from Aniston’s Alex Levy and Witherspoon’s Bradley Jackson about how he gives them the creeps alludes to him having a bigger role than an innocent man with deep pockets. Perhaps the next episode will shine some light onto his character after that reveal that he has a history with another UBA executive beyond just Cory.
Beyond the trendy storyline of maiden space voyages and a minor technical difficulty that gave me flashbacks to the headlines this summer of the doomed Titan submersible, The Morning Show also tackled the issues of abortion and cyber security. Bradley Jackson, always positioned as the down-home news anchor with a heart of gold, wants to shine a light on abortion-rights activists on the Mexican-Texas border. However, this story is eventually canned because Jackson, as the head evening news anchor, must maintain a level of unbiased and wide appeal when entering the upcoming coverage of election season. Having a news station work to ensure their newscasters are trusted and can speak to both sides of the aisle is perhaps the most fictional part of The Morning Show!
The cyber attack doesn’t occur until the second episode when a hacker suddenly cuts the broadcast signal and compromises all of the employees’ phones and laptops. Cyber security is of utmost concern in the real world and The Morning Show is posed to tackle the issue head on, even tying the blame to potential Russian culprits as some sort of payback or provocation for the current war in Ukraine. Further, the data breach seems to hold more personal issues for the cast beyond just giving them news points to discuss. Each of the workers at UBA, despite the network’s attempts to amplify their trustworthiness, clearly have been hiding secrets that will be devastating if/when it’s released.
If it seems like The Morning Show is biting off more than it can chew, it somehow tackles everything and ties it all together seamlessly. The show expertly balances the news and real-world aspect of the narrative along with the fictional characters’ personal drama in a way that creates an interesting tension of anxiety yet tantalizing suspense. Prepare yourselves for next week’s watch: The Morning Show is certain to get your blood pumping.
New episodes premiere every Wednesday on AppleTV+.
Feature image courtesy of Apple TV+