Everyone’s falling apart on The Morning Show [Apple TV+ review]

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The Morning Show review: The presidential debate prep in this week's episode feels fresh as last year's news.
The presidential debate prep in this week's episode feels fresh as last year's news.
Photo: Apple TV+

This week on The Morning Show, Maggie Brener’s book is about to come out. Alex is having a panic attack. Chip is having a crisis of confidence. Cory’s on the attack. And Bradley’s having the time of her life.

Apple TV+’s showbiz show juggles tones and sympathies — and drops several of the balls along the way. Things gets good, and then bad, and then good again. It’s time for The Morning Show writers to make some hard choices about which direction to head. Well … it was time weeks ago, but now will do just fine.

The Morning Show review: ‘Ghosts’

Last week, disgraced former Morning Show anchor Mitch Kessler (played by Steve Carell) called UBA CEO Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup) to warn him that some bad stuff is coming out about Hannah Shoenfeld (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the former UBA worker who killed herself after coming forward with sexual-assault allegations about Mitch.

He blew Mitch off at the time but Cory knows there’s a storm coming and he’s got to act fast. In this week’s episode, titled “Ghosts,” He calls Fred Micklen (Tom Irwin) to threaten him into action — but Fred has the upper hand, and he knows it.

When Fred left UBA, he did so with the understanding that Cory would let him go quietly even after he took the blame for covering up Mitch’s years of sexual harassment. Coming for Fred now means that their arrangement changes, and Fred won’t hesitate to implicate Cory if need be; anything to keep from being the sole focus of the backlash. Cory tries to confide in Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) but he’s afraid of incriminating himself and her.

That book’s already causing trouble

Meanwhile, Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) gets a visit from rival network anchor Audra (Mindy Kaling) because she’s been booked to interview Maggie Brener (Marcia Gay Harden), whose book about the sexual harassment at UBA is due to come out soon, scaring everyone. Audra wants Alex’s permission to interview her, and she reluctantly gives it.

She wants a copy of the book but Chip (Mark Duplass) won’t agree to get one for her to read. He thinks she’s too busy to let herself get distracted by the book, which undeniably contains a lot of damning information about both of them.

Cory decides to be proactive after his conversation with Fred and goes to visit Hannah’s father (David Paymer) to convince him to stop his lawsuit against UBA. The network will do anything to quash the lawsuit, and if he takes a settlement agreement instead, at least he’ll get some form of compensation. Cory feels gross doing it but he’d rather be crass than see Hannah’s family suffer more as her name gets dragged through the mud.

No party, work.

Laura and Bradley are back together, despite appearing to break up last week. Sure?

Yanko’s racism debate is still going and it’s still very boring, because the writers seem to think they’re saying something by having him reject PC culture. Yanko must redeem himself, then, and they choose to let it be because he overhears someone being racist to Stella about COVID-19, and beats the hell out of the racist in question. Naturally, the incident gets filmed by a passerby.

The Morning Show’s Mitch problem

Mitch has decided to quarantine with Paola (Valeria Golino), and he has a little monologue about how he’s a broken person and how she shouldn’t want to be friends with him, which feels extremely gross.

Never mind that this logic shouldn’t be coming out of the mouth of anyone older than 22. This dude should never ever be allowed to make a plea for understanding because of all that he’s gone through. The show again really seems to think it’s doin’ something with this storyline, but I shudder to goddamned think what it might be.

Every time I think The Morning Show is getting interesting (Cory calling Fred and then visiting Mr. Shoenfeld is about as good as this show gets), it takes two big-ass steps backward. I just cannot imagine for the life of me why we need to know about the inner life of the guy who killed Hannah Shoenfeld, whom the show is otherwise martyring.

Mitch even gets to have a teary confessional interview in front of Paola. It’s very difficult to think that the writers want anything other than for us to feel bad for Mitch (Carell is in full sad mode, and you don’t ask for that unless you’re trying to generate sympathy). And it’s even more difficult to think why they want that.

… and an Alex problem, too

The Alex Levy drama sits solidly in the middle of the two, neither as good as anything with Billy Crudup nor as dire as anything with Steve Carell. She and Chip have a falling out when she finds out that Chip went to Maggie Brener about leaking the story about Fred covering up Mitch’s sexual assault.

The problem with all the Alex stuff this season is it’s all about her ego, which just looks paltry and petty next to the bigger issues of suicide and cover-ups.

Aniston is really going for it, and you can sense that there is in her portrayal of this character a chance to express her frustration about her career and life in the spotlight. It just never becomes as interesting as the stuff for which the Alex plot must compete for airtime.

This week in bad current events

Also this week, The Morning Show crew does debate prep, which means they’re reading dirt on the candidates, and everyone has a good chuckle about Michael Bloomberg insulting Fergie. I know this show is technically a period piece, but this bit feels prehistoric. One of the staffers does a Bernie Sanders impression that feels right out of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

This series’ dance with Aaron Sorkin is never-ending and it’s unclear which of them has worse moves.

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.