Review: After long delay, return of 'The Morning Show' is good news
Apple TV+ streaming series revels in big stars and big issues.
“The Morning Show” is a mess.
Then again, so is the rest of the world.
It’s been almost two full years since “The Morning Show” debuted as the shiniest part of Apple TV+’s initial slate of shows. It had star power to spare — Aniston! Witherspoon! Carell! — and a storyline that matched the #MeToo moment.
Steve Carell plays Mitch Kessler, a beloved national morning show anchor brought down by revelations that he’s been sleeping with, well, everyone. Jennifer Aniston is Alex Levy, his now-stranded co-host, trying to right the ship while corporate sharks circle. And Reese Witherspoon plays feisty small-town TV reporter Bradley Jackson, who gets caught up in a media whirlwind and then lands unexpectedly next to Levy as her new co-host.
The initial episodes were stiff and a bit obvious (did Matt Lauer get a producing credit?), but the show developed nicely, offering nuanced takes on sexual politics and corporate enablement while letting the stars grow into their characters.
Meanwhile the show’s supporting cast — Mark Duplass, Bel Powley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nestor Carbonell — was just stunningly good, especially Billy Crudup as giddy, risk-taking, plot-hatching TV executive Cory Ellison.
It was mission accomplished for fledgling Apple TV+. The show garnered eight Emmy nominations, with Crudup winning supporting actor, and Aniston picking up a Screen Actors Guild Award for best actress.
The first season of “The Morning Show” ended just as reports of a new virus were emerging. Which is why it’s taken almost two years to get to a second season.
In a wise move, the show picks up in December of 2019. Alex Levy is retired and living in the country. Mitch Kessler has taken refuge in a lonely mansion in Italy. Bradley Jackson has a new co-host (Hassan Minaj) on “The Morning Show.” And Cory Ellison is running the network.
Soon enough Cory has another personnel shuffle on his hands and he comes up with a brilliant idea — bring Alex Levy back to “The Morning Show.” His new young head of news, Stella Bak (a wonderful Greta Lee) isn’t so sure, and Alex protests, but what Cory wants, Cory gets.
Meanwhile a veteran broadcaster, Laura Peterson (Julianna Margulies) fills in on “The Morning Show,” where she becomes a mentor and more to Bradley.
As this season’s episodes pass, the story of that virus from China gets more and more important. Amid the affairs and betrayals, power moves and paranoia, sneezes take on meaning and it’s clear that as powerfully screwed up as “The Morning Show” culture is, the culture at large is about to get way more powerfully screwed up.
In the interval between seasons Apple TV+ birthed “Ted Lasso” and became something of a new HBO, a home for quality programming like “For All Mankind,” “The Mosquito Coast,” “Dickinson” and more. It’s still a small streaming service but it packs big punch and next week it debuts “Foundation,” based on the Isaac Asimov novels. Color the network ambitious.
And color “The Morning Show” the same. It takes some soapy turns in season two, and Carell’s character can seem stranded in limbo, but this is big starry television about big starry television that dares you to look away. Tune in.
Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News.
'The Morning Show'