Apple TV+ and “The Morning Show” Review

It seemed as if Apple TV+ was still far off on the horizon until November 1 snuck up on us like another breaking political news story. Let’s crack a smile at the notion that new streaming services arrived just in time when our country’s news cycle makes many want to escape into a six-month binge-watch session.

Sure, call that irony when discussing Apple’s “The Morning Show.”

If Netflix seems to have stayed stable in subscriber numbers and in strategizing to offset Apple (and upcoming Disney+), it doesn’t mean they won’t be challenged eventually.

Apple TV+ might not accomplish that immediately, but I discovered that the programming there is more attractive than critics initially told us.

 

Those of you still sitting on the fence about joining Apple TV+ shouldn’t hesitate to try their 7-day free trial, or the free year you received if buying an Apple product recently. While maybe access on an Apple device is a little more complicated, you can work the app faster on a 2018 or 2019 Samsung smart TV. Just have your Apple ID ready to sign in.

Of course, you can watch on your desktop even easier without needing the latest Apple OS. All you’ll need is the latest Chrome or Firefox browser.

When I first signed in, I noticed how spare Apple TV+’s basic design is. This falls in line with Apple always creating glorious, spare designs in their tech products. Their main page adheres to this by simply placing a full background pic of their shows and a “Play” button.

I recommend watching the shows on a 4K TV if you can, because the budgets for these shows are obvious in every scene. The cinematography in “The Morning Show” alone is worth seeing enlarged and not on a phone or tablet. Even if “TMS” looks somewhat dark, that’s entirely intentional based on a dark world you’re about to enter.

“The Morning Show” Mimics Reality a Little Uncomfortably (At Times)

 No doubt the sound of a vibrating smartphone will haunt you forever after watching the first three episodes of “TMS”, something no doubt intentional. That’s the first sound you hear in the debut episode as we see Jennifer Aniston’s character (celebrated morning anchor Alex Levy) waking in bed to the news her morning co-anchor, Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell), was fired for sexual misconduct.

Yes, Kessler is obviously an eerie parallel to NBC’s Matt Lauer, something Carell taps into in a very haunting way. We even see him give us a glimpse into what Lauer might have done to reflect his anger at home during the middle of the initial chaos.

Seeing Carell’s Kessler smash his hi-def TV screen to bits is something you’ll never forget. As a result, we see Carell isn’t there to play comedy, even if he does have a few droll moments later in episodes two and three.

As memorable as Carell is from his first scene, this is the ultimate acting showcase for Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. Because they executive-produced this show, they’re clearly simpatico when their characters finally lock horns.

Witherspoon plays Bradley Jackson, a mercurial field reporter who blows her top at an anti-coal protest and doesn’t know it was captured as a viral video. Juicy as this part is for Witherspoon, it’s really the weakest character in the mix.

Aniston’s Alex is the most complex of all, giving us a view of the underbelly in cable news, or at least based on Brian Stelter’s view in his adapted book. We quickly see the world we see on-air is almost a fabricated world that can easily fall apart when reality hits a brick wall.

If you watch the first three episodes, you’ll see Aniston in numerous dramatic scenes that show off her acting chops in a way we haven’t seen since the movie “Cake.” Don’t be surprised to see her gain an Emmy nomination for this, a coup for Apple.

 

Perhaps the world of “The Morning Show” seems exaggerated, yet it might not be. Its aim is to reflect on the world of cable news (UBA the almost contrived network name here) rather than try to prognosticate anything.

Unless the show is giving us plenty of warnings here about how cutthroat news might become in the near future, if not already.

Should you find the whole thing a little overwrought, it has a lot of scenes that challenge you on feeling like a voyeur. One scene between Kessler and a fellow disgraced friend (played by Martin Short) will make you squirm during their private discussion of the #MeToo movement. We also find out at this moment Kessler has a bit of a conscience when he calls his friend a sexual predator.

The rest of the cast is top-notch, and they’re all given chances in the spotlight. Billy Crudup’s Cory Ellison is a quietly plastic and cunning exec working the plan to bring Bradley Jackson to UBA and usurp Alex Levy.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw is another standout playing Hannah Shoenfeld who tries to take Bradley under her wing to help her fit in at UBA.

Everyone from Mark Duplass to a short cameo of Brett Butler (playing Bradley’s mother) are memorable and given chances to utter beefy dialogue. Almost everyone has a chance to spit out fast-flying, profane lines that almost sound written by the late Paddy Chayefsky, though written by Kerry Ehrin (with consultation by Brian Stelter).

By the end of the third episode, you’ll be entirely hooked on where the show is going to go and whether we’ll see a Howard Beale moment straight out of “Network.” The show has the feel of latter classic movie (now Broadway play), especially when Alex adamantly admits at a board meeting she’s the real one in control of the network (and American viewers).

As much as “Network” predicted where we are now, “The Morning Show” might be more the flame we’re attracted to in seeing the things we’ve only heard about from the periphery.

The only thing possibly keeping people away from Apple TV+ in its first quarter will be Netflix’s massive November strategy and the birth of Disney+. Figuring out which one becomes the most addicting will be like doing deep-dives into America’s favorite desserts.

 

(P.S.—Stay tuned for a possible review here soon of Apple’s other shows like “See” and “Dickinson”.)