Based around the lives of the anchors and producers of The Morning Show, a fictional Good Morning America-type program; this Apple TV + hit runs through 2022’s news stories with a heavy hand. More about the interpersonal lives behind the camera and less about the news they are reading, The Morning Show hits big themes with an uneven level of taste.

Where Are We Now?

In Season Two, we see the network, UBA, plagued by low ratings, media speculation, and the global pandemic. The show’s third outing picks up where they left off, fighting to survive in the ever-changing world of politics, social media, and #metoo.

Jennifer Aniston is back as Alex Levy; a celebrated journalist whose reputation continues to be tarred by her relationship with the late predator Mitch Kessler (Steve Carrell). She now has her own talk show, which allows her to get his teeth into deeper news stories, but she still wants more. She is trying to break that glass ceiling, balancing being a likable media personality and a strong-minded businesswoman.

Young gun Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) is now the lead UBA evening news anchor. She has finally landed the job she has always wanted, is still going strong with Laura (Julianna Margulies), and has a thriving career in journalism. What could possibly go wrong? What a flashback soon reveals it hasn’t been as smooth sailing as she wants everyone to think.

The Morning Show appears to take place a year or so after the dramatic end of season 2. The show does a decent job of laying out the current career and personal landscape of our characters. In episode 5, we get a zip through a year of the lives of our characters and the network. It’s a joltingly unnecessary episode that fills in the gaps that a good script should be able to present alone.

Meet Paul Marks

It opens with the news that Alex is set to be the first female journalist in space. The Morning Show is making a big deal about Levy joining Paul Marks (Jon Hamm) on his Hyperion One Rocket exercise. She is going to appear live on UBA from space, but this is more than a vanity project for Marks.

Sleazy UBA boss, Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup) is sniffing around Paul and his bank account. He is pandering to the eccentric billionaire, hoping he can pump some much-needed funds into his decaying network. The opening episodes play like a cat-and-mouse game between Cory and Paul.

UBA is in trouble. Like any other legacy media company, they are trying to map out how to compete with social media and streamers. Like Succession did with Alexander Skarsgard’s Lukas Matsson, The Morning Show presents us with an Elon Musk-type character. The Morning Show doesn’t quite deliver the same boardroom tension as Succession mastered. Going forward, let’s not introduce any more eccentric billionaires into dramas.

UBA’s troubles get bigger when their entire system gets hacked. Soon, the staff and talent’s most personal emails and videos are made public. The threads of this plot and the chain reaction it causes within the company run throughout the 10 episodes, but it feels weirdly underused. Too much of this season’s driving force is Paul Marks and his possibly hostile takeover. Some takeover talks could have been eliminated in favor of more time on the leak. This season’s best scenes are about the leak and what the staff uncover about each other and their bosses. We are watching The Morning Show for the gossip, not the business plots.

How Are The Cast?

Jennifer Aniston continues to do some of her finest work on The Morning Show. Alex Levy is the perfect heroine to root for in the show’s toxic media landscape. She is trying to cling to her integrity and remember why she wanted to be a journalist.

Reese Witherspoon is sidelined and overshadowed by her co-stars. Bradley Jackson was engaging because she was bright and brash, standing out against her media-trained co-anchors. Years into her job at UBA, Jackson has lost her spark and gone corporate. Witherspoon was the audience’s way into the world of morning TV, and it’s hard to connect with her as this professional journalist. Witherspoon and her character fade into the background compared to the warm Juliana Marguiles and the powerhouse Jennifer Aniston performance.

Witherspoon’s role as the newbie with revolutionary ideas is replaced by newbie Nicole Beharie, who plays Christina Hunter. The former athlete joins The Morning Show team and soon realizes the TV world is less glamorous than it seems. Beharie is an empathetic addition to the cast, giving the same natural warmth Witherspoon emitted in season one.

Greta Lee is back as President of News Stella Bak and is finally given the material to shine. Stella is given a back story, a goal, and a little more personality. Lee is an immensely talented actress, and it’s wonderful for her to get material to sink her teeth into finally. She goes toe-to-toe with Crudup’s Cory, who is deliciously slimy and perfectly dislikable. Holland Taylor has a small but memorable performance as Cybil, a board member who harshly learns about the modern world. Her scenes with Crudup are wonderfully catty and sharp.

Jon Hamm is as charming as ever but fails to deliver the zany side to his billionaire. He plays Paul Marks a little too sympathetically and it’s hard to believe Hamm could be anything more than a good guy. Although he makes a worthy advisory to Billy Crudup’s studio head, The Morning Show is about female characters.

Karen Pittman’s producer Mia Jordan comes to the forefront of this season. Pittman is a force of nature in this third season, turning her character into an important moving part of The Morning Show. Pittman delivers a powerhouse performance as she faces the racist undertones of her boss’s leaked messages. She tackles the highs and lows of being a black woman in a newsroom with a powerful grace.

Newcomers to season 3 include Tig Notaro as Paul’s assistant, Natalie Morales as a former Hyperion employee, and Stephen Fry as a board member. All of them are severely underused because there are too many plots and too many characters to explore the nuances of everyone fully.

Some of the best working character actors appear throughout this season, chewing scenery and delivering these outstanding monologues. Everyone’s commitment to earnestness saves this show from feeling like a pastiche. The Morning Show could devolve into a soapy mess without the talented cast holding it together.

The Morning Show Fails To Handle The News

The series started as a look at how a media company dealt with the fallout of #metoo. It wasn’t subtle in its message and was often criticized for making the predatory Mitch a sympathetic character. It was far too preoccupied with cancel culture and how that ruined a popular TV show to give time to the victims of sexual assault.

In season 2, the show concluded with the characters handling the COVID-19 pandemic. It once again failed to look further than making a TV show. We see Alex Levy at death’s door with the virus, and all she can think about is broadcasting her possible final days to the American public.

In season 3, The Morning Show tries to tackle the big-hitting issues while balancing satirical humor and soap operas. In just 10 episodes, it covers the aftermath of COVID-19, the January 6th insurgence, and Roe v Wade. They address all these plots tastefully. There is no time for nuance. Especially when a national issue is shoehorned between interpersonal dramas, workplace politics, and soapy meltdowns.

Where The Morning Show excels is in the world-building. The Apple TV+ show does a decent job of mixing real-life cameos and news events with fictional celebrities and newscasters (June Diane Raphael and Mindy Kaling play other news anchors). Overall, this drama’s third season is entirely compelling. You will be drawn into their lives like you are watching a reality show. It’s often messy and heavy-handed, but you won’t be able to look away.

After three seasons, it’s still unclear if The Morning Show thinks it’s a prestige drama, a ten-episode soap opera or a media satire. It fails to strike any tone with intent. Thank goodness for the cast, whose career-best performance keeps this show from falling into soapy pastiche.

So, what do you think of The Morning Show?

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