Warning: Spoilers ahead
Apple TV+ launched with much fanfare a couple of months ago, but it hasnt exactly set the TV stage on fire. Of the four shows that premired on the day of launch, the period dramedy, Dickinson, garnered the best reviews initially, yet it remains a niche show. The space opera, For All Mankind, started off with great promise but the charm wore off quickly. The most awful of the lot, undoubtedly, was the expensive fantasy epic, See, which is fashioned on Game of Thrones (it even features Jason Drogo Momoa), but is entirely clueless about its purpose.
Apple TV+s flagship show is The Morning Show (TMS), created by Jay Carson, and featuring an ensemble of formidable actors: Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, Billy Crudup and Mark Duplass. Eerily similar to the real-life firing of morning news host Matt Lauer after sexual assault allegations surfaced against him, TMS taps into the post #MeToo world where both men and women must question their belief systems and conduct. In spite of this dynamic premise to play with, and that wonderful cast, TMS struggles to find its footing initially. I was convinced, in fact, after sampling the first three episodes that landed on Day One, that the show would turn out to be one of the big disappointments of 2019.
Admittedly, though, TMS gets better with each successive viewing. Certain issues remain, like, for example, the shows obsession with one singular event of sexual assault at the workplace to build drama and intrigue, its over-reliance on soap opera-like theatrics, and its unwillingness to commit to its two principal characters, Alex Levy (Aniston) and Bradley Jackson (Witherspoon). Yet, with each episode, the writers take bolder, more outrageous dramatic decisions that, thankfully, land more often than not. The overall tone gets a lot more consistent, and things are tied up nicely in an explosive finale that validates some of the effort viewers have to put in to get there.
The most interesting thread the show pulls at is the grey area around consent. The assaulter, Mitch Kessler (Carell), truly believes there was willingness on the part of his victims. The audience, too, is made part of this guessing game, until the very last episode where Mitchs victim, Hannah, explodes with her account of the assault. Its a powerful scene, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw delivers a stirring monologue that completely shakes you up. Purely, on the basis of the finale, TMS does enough to show what its capable of achieving, which augurs well for Season 2 (already green-lit).
Theres ample evidence to prove that if the material is great, this cast can do wonders. Aniston gets to sink her teeth into a truly deserving role in ages, and shes terrific as the conflicted, ambitious Alex. Duplass, playing The Morning Shows executive producer, Charlie Chip Black, is extremely watchable. The standout performer is Crudup, playing the smooth-talking, smarmy network executive Cory Ellison. Watching him serenade Aniston with an impromptu duet is pure magic the kind of TV moment we want more of in 2020.
Season One of The Morning Show is now streaming on Apple TV+
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Aniruddha Guha is a screenwriter & columnist. Read his rants on film & TV on Twitter: @AniGuha