The Morning Show goes fully off the rails in Italy [Apple TV+ review]

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The Morning Show review: Steve Carell and Jennifer Aniston really have nothing left to say.
Steve Carell and Jennifer Aniston really have nothing left to say.
Photo: Apple TV+

This week on The Morning Show, veteran anchor Alex Levy tracks down her shamed former colleague Mitch Kessler in Italy and demands an ass-covering statement before she returns to the states.

Of course, nothing is ever simple on Apple TV+’s show about the morning news and the nightmarish people who produce it. COVID-19 is ramping up, and Alex won’t be able to leave Italy even if she wants to. So she’s stuck with Mitch, the last place she wants to be.

This is a fine episode from the standpoint of the performances of The Morning Show’s big stars and the writing that paints their characters as believable human beings. It’s also the single worst episode of television you could hope to air right now — a phalanx of bad decisions that would shame an entire season of The Newsroom.

The Morning Show review: ‘La Amara Vita’

In this week’s episode, titled “La Amara Vita,” Alex (played by Jennifer Aniston) locates Mitch (Steve Carell) and pressures him to release a statement saying they never had sex. They did, of course, but Alex lied to Laura Peterson (Julianna Margulies) when asked about it on TV a few weeks ago. So, to get ahead of the revelations in journalist Maggie Brener’s (Marcia Gay Harden) upcoming book that she and Mitch did have consensual sex at the time he was committing sexual assault, she wants Mitch to to lie about it, too.

They scream at each other and Alex flatly rejects Mitch’s attempts to explain his bad behavior. Alex doesn’t buy that he’s learned anything. And the sudden appearance of Paola (Valeria Golino) proves her point for her. If Mitch is so bent out of shape about losing his family and kids, why is he shacked up with a beautiful woman in a villa instead of living with (or at least near) them in the states?

No way out

Alex tries to leave but falls asleep on her way to the airport. And the cop who finds her improbably insists that she go back to Mitch’s house rather than to the airport to find a flight out. Sure, lockdown measures, but uhh, this seems like not a thing that ever happened.

So they finally get to have a long conversation about how much they miss each other and how much they hate how things shook out during the events of The Morning Show’s first season. Naturally, this then turns back into a question of Alex’s inability to vouch for Mitch. And that freaks out Alex, who must convince herself she’s a good person after she leaves without giving him her version of absolution. Wouldn’t it be too bad if she lived to immediately regret that?

The Morning Show, your credibility is gone

There’s no polite way to say this: Apple TV+ needs to put this show out of its misery. The Morning Show was built on the back of the idea of living through the #MeToo era and what that does to old paradigms or whatever.

Yes, there’s time for sexuality and gender and politics outside of that sphere. But the idea of Mitch getting fired for sexual assault and bringing the whole house of cards down with him served as the hook. In order for that to work, there needed to be enough plausible deniability to get through the first season without the show and the audience completely turning on him.

Now that that’s over with, the show is stuck with Mitch. And The Morning Show’s creative team apparently forgot that the show is meant to be an exploration of women dealing with workplace culture. And because it can’t simply spend time loathing him (this is, after all, Apple TV+, not HBO or Showtime or even AMC, frankly), they have to make him sympathetic.

So much for sympathy

So yes, Alex shows up at Mitch’s villa with every intention of screaming him to death in pursuit of the statement saying they never slept together. But then they forgive each other because she comes across like the bad guy.

Not only is she already given the low ground, morally speaking — something that this show should make impossible, considering Mitch is a rapist, but they won’t because the dramatic TV writing manual says there must be an equal exchange of perspective — she never fully claims the high ground. So we get a full episode of Mitch being told what a great guy he is and that his low points don’t define him.

Except … yes they do. Of course they do. This episode makes a hugely unsatisfying and dishonest case for Mitch’s humanity beyond his crimes as Alex, drunk, reminds him how much he means to her and what a shame it is that their relationship as friends and partners is over.

Stop making excuses for a sex offender

Every high-profile rapist has friends and family. That has nothing to do with their guilt. Nope. No. Just no. I’m not saying don’t have this plot point. I’m saying don’t then immediately follow it up with Mitch getting laid by a beautiful woman and then martyring himself. Because then you’re saying he’s doing his part, so to speak, and that he alone has decided that this is the best course of action. He was the only person capable of judging him and punishing him. Disgusting.

If The Morning Show was about Harvey Weinstein, Larry Nassar, Woody Allen — name your creep — would the writers go to such pains to show what a good guy he is? No. They wouldn’t. And they’d all tell you they wouldn’t because that would be irresponsible, right? So why does their avatar pervert get the sensitive treatment? Why does this show, about workplace harassment, ultimately side with the harasser? Pretty gross.

If The Morning Show never seemed truly in control. But now, the show has officially gotten away from itself. It’s a shame, too, because Aniston and Carell have great chemistry. Oh well!

This week in bad current events

I mean … *gestures broadly at whole episode*

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.