The Morning Show can’t shake its obsession with Mitch the sex pest [Apple TV+ review]

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The Morning Show review: We know Mitch (played by Steve Carell, left) is a creep. Why can't this show let him go?
We know Mitch (played by Steve Carell, left) is a creep. Why can't this show let him go?
Photo: Apple TV+

Alex is back on The Morning Show and the ratings are up, but is everyone happy? Her presence has everyone scrambling to prove that they’re on the right side of things. Meanwhile, disgraced former anchor Mitch just won’t go away.

Apple TV+’s inside look at the world of TV broadcast journalism stands at a precipice — and just below are mountains of crisis.

The Morning Show review: ‘Kill the Fatted Calf’

Everything seems to be going well after the return of Alex Levy (played by Jennifer Aniston), but everyone is remarkably tense. Her co-anchor, Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), is in a newly competitive mindset. And Alex herself is wary of becoming too big, too fast. She’s trying to ease back into being famous again, which rankles her producer, Chip (Mark Duplass), who came back ready to take on these challenges.

He seems upset when Alex refuses his advice and wants to turn down a chance to moderate a political debate — a gig that Bradley wants badly.

Meanwhile, Bradley’s secretly sleeping with journalist Laura Peterson (Julianna Margulies). Laura recommends that Bradley reconcile with Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup), the network exec whom she’s been trading barbs and favors with equal abandon lately. Cory has his own problems, of course, because the network’s not doing well and he’s taking the blame.

The trouble with Mitch

Disgraced ex-Morning Show anchor Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) starts to find himself in a better mood, thanks to his fiery friendship with Paola (Valeria Golino). But that’s shattered by a call from his estranged wife, Paige (Embeth Davidtz). She got wind that there’s going to be a renewed smear campaign against Hannah Shoenfeld (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the woman Mitch sexually harassed who killed herself in an overdose after going public with her allegations.

This likely will bring further scrutiny to Mitch and his family, so he calls Cory to ask him to stop the wheels of this new story. Out of principle, Cory doesn’t want to help Mitch at all. However, he has to know that it’s going to look bad for everyone if this story comes out.

News division head Stella (Greta Lee) dresses down weatherman Yanko Flores (Nestor Carbonell) for his use of the term “spirit animal.” Yanko freaks out when he’s asked to apologize, which pisses her off further. Daniel Henderson (Desean Terry) goes to Stella covertly to ask for stories that don’t explicitly relate to race. He wants to be treated more like Alex and Bradley, but Stella doesn’t think he’s charismatic enough to handle being anything other than a third-stringer.

Keep your voice down

The thing that must always foreground any discussion of The Morning Show is that the show still spends so much time and attention to sex pest Mitch Kessler. Watching him fumble around doing “the right thing” and navigating boundaries with Paola … I mean the whole reason Apple TV+ green-lit this show was to talk about journalism in the #MeToo era. And Mitch was a proven monster.

That worked for The Morning Show’s first season, where everyone discovered that he was a creep. Now that we know he’s a creep, why are we hanging out with him? It feels frankly kind of obscene to have to watch the show attempt to get us to sympathize with him.

And the real trouble is The Morning Show can’t afford to cut that stuff out because so little of the rest of the drama is more interesting. The Yanko and Daniel storylines are nonstarters; a weatherman getting canceled for being an idiot isn’t really all that shocking.

The Bradley and Cory show

The Morning Show review: Billy Crudup, left, is still the strongest part of this show.
Billy Crudup, left, is still the strongest part of this show.
Photo: Apple TV+

If the show could just be about Bradley and Cory, it would be consistently entertaining. Crudup shines as the best performer in the main cast. Watching him attack this part is the best thing Apple TV+’s flagship drama has going for it. Witherspoon can be good, but she’s really in top form when sparring with Crudup or Marguiles. So I don’t understand the urge to have Witherspoon do anything else. She and Crudup trying to apologize to each other was the highlight of this week’s episode.

It’s kind of funny that this week’s theme is representation and tokenism. Laura’s mad at Bradley for not going public about her sexuality. Daniel feels like he’s being treated unfairly because he’s gay and black. Yanko doesn’t want to apologize for being racist. Stella thinks Cory hired her because she’s Asian.

All of this is certainly true, but it’s … well, there’s the fact that the show has to believe that puff network news is the best place for politics to meaningfully get real work done for advancement. What the writers of this show can’t understand is that no one is watching Good Morning America or The View or whatever to see themselves represented. They watch those shows because they’re killing time before work or because they’re waiting for their laundry or getting their nails done.

No one cares about the external politics of morning television, why would they care about the internal politics? No one turns on Live With Kelly and Ryan hoping to see real progressive work get done.

This week in bad current events

Apparently, Alex is a die-hard Foo Fighters fan — and the band surprises her with a performance. It’s funny to watch Aniston have to be excited about them.

Watch The Morning Show on Apple TV+

New episodes of The Morning Show arrive on Apple TV+ on Fridays.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.