Early review calls Apple TV+’s The Morning Show a ‘painful belly flop’

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Early review calls The Morning Show ‘a painful bellyflop’
This was the first show Apple commissioned for Apple TV+.
Photo: Apple

Remember that story about how the logo for The Morning Show, one of Apple TV+’s flagship shows, looked suspiciously like the logo for Elon Musk’s The Boring Company? It turns out that may have been a bad omen.

Ahead of Apple TV+’s November 1 launch, the first reviews are out for its star-studded newsroom drama/comedy starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell. And, well, they’re far from the blockbuster reviews Apple likely hoped for from its show that costs more than Game of Thrones.

Time writes that:

“You can see why Apple is leading with The Morning Show … Yet the show doesn’t have the same depth or experimental spirit as the top tier of TV in 2019. Rather, it resembles a more muted Shonda Rhimes serial or a less smug Aaron Sorkin joint—it’s pithy and easy to watch but rarely as thought-provoking as you’d hope, given the topic. [Carell’s character Mitch Kessler’s] murky, sub-Lauer sins and Carell’s operatic tears hint at moral ambiguity without confronting it, and [showrunner Kerry] Ehrin adds little (in the three episodes sent to critics) to the #MeToo discourse. The Morning Show could make a great core program for Apple TV+, if only its scripts had the courage of its lead characters.”

The Morning Show is ‘overly talky, tonally confused’

Rolling Stone‘s review is considerably more damning. It describes The Morning Show as “a well-polished snore, a prime example of how throwing money at a problem … isn’t inherently the best way to solve it.” In a 2.5 stars out of 5 review, it notes that Apple is likely to have a hard time making it in the streaming game, based on the evidence so far. “You’re not paying much, but you’re also not getting much at this stage, in quantity or quality,” it writes.

TVLine, meanwhile, describes The Morning Show as, “overly talky, tonally confused, badly miscast in places — and, given the talent involved, a major disappointment.”

It concludes that:

“If you stick around long enough to watch the second episode, it ends with a bizarre ‘twist’ that makes absolutely no sense, from either a TV production perspective or an emotional character one. If I had any desire to stick with The Morning Show at that point — which I did not — that would have just obliterated it completely. Apple was clearly hoping to make a big splash with this star-studded series… but it ends up being more of a painful belly flop.”

The Hollywood Reporter notes:

“After a brutally dull pilot and a meandering second episode, there are distinct hints in the third hour of a more satisfying and confident The Morning Show, one that actually gets value out of leading ladies Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. But did the behemoths at Apple really get into the crowded original TV marketplace to become the latest perpetrator of ‘It eventually gets better!’ patience-testing?”

Not everyone hates it…

The AV Club is a rare dissenter:

“It takes a little time to find its whip-smart footing, with the pilot trying too hard to make everyone sound clever for clever’s sake and some hoary speechifying, but once it gets going, The Morning Show has the addictive rush of great old-school TV dramas. Funny, biting, and with just the right dose of trashy zing, this is high-gloss soap — Broadcast News meets L.A. Law.”

Challenges ahead for Apple

This isn’t to say that The Morning Show couldn’t turn out to be fun. The series it looks most like is Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom. That HBO show also started out disappointingly, and took a while to find its feet. When it did, it actually became pretty darn good. Plenty of other shows also had relatively weak pilots and went on to turn into something enjoyable. Apple’s not going to cancel The Morning Show. As part of the deal, it agreed to produce at least two seasons of the show.

But the scathing early The Morning Show reviews do suggest that Apple faces challenges as it tries to compete with its upcoming video service. The streaming TV landscape is packed here in 2019. A couple of decades ago, A-list shows on TV were rare. But TV is going through a golden age right now. To unseat the likes of Netflix and challenge the might of the looming Disney+, Apple TV+ needs to be a smash hit right out of the gate. It can’t be competitive if its shows take a season to get going.

I’ll be watching Apple TV+ with interest come November. But these reviews probably aren’t what Apple was banking on. This was Apple’s attempt at a timely, zeitgeist show that would spark conversation in the #MeToo era. Hopefully the other shows will fare better.