Roush Review: Jennifer Aniston Is the Shining Apple in the Glossy Drama of ‘Morning Show’
What kept Jennifer Aniston away from episodic TV for so long? That question is likely to occur to you early and often should you choose to sign up for Apple’s new streaming service — and it’s a fair assumption that all of the buzz around the starry, glossy The Morning Show is the most likely reason anyone would add yet another subscription to an already bulging menu. (I’ll weigh in on a few of Apple’s other initial offerings separately, but none so far have Morning‘s commercial appeal.)
In Apple’s best bet at a signature drama out of the gate, Aniston is sensational as Alex Levy, a longtime morning-show anchor scheming to stay atop the TV-news pyramid despite scandal and shady bosses. Exhausted by the grind, she’s blindsided when her on-air partner Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) is abruptly fired, Matt Lauer-style, for allegations of sexual misconduct. Somehow, Alex keeps her professional cool on air. Off camera is another story, and while The Morning Show breaks little ground with its slick and cynical look at raging egos in the news-as-entertainment business, Aniston is a marvel of steely yet vulnerable glamour as she jousts for power with smarmy network head Cory Ellison (a reptilian Billy Crudup).
“Chaos, it’s the new cocaine,” gloats Cory, who sees an opportunity rather than a setback in Mitch’s downfall. (Mitch isn’t as sanguine, and most of Carell’s scenes depict the “dad of morning TV” as a self-pitying whiner.) Cory’s vision of blurring the line between serious news and sensationalism will be familiar to anyone who ever saw Network, and he’s true to disruptive form when he becomes a champion of upstart field reporter Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon at her spunkiest), who’s discovered during a viral-video rant in her native West Virginia.
A news purist with no filter, Bradley is ambivalent and understandably disbelieving of her instant fame, which becomes even more improbable when her ascent dovetails with Alex’s desperate machinations in a preposterous yet gripping twist. She’s not even sure she wants this kind of big break, and Witherspoon is at her best in a scene where Bradley pitches story ideas to the fictional Morning Show‘s unimpressed executive producer (Mark Duplass), ending in a “Your show sucks” outburst. A career ender? Not on this series.
The Morning Show favors soap opera over self-importance, making this newsroom a fun place to visit, especially if you like your headlines over the top.
The Morning Show, Series Premiere, Friday, Nov. 1, Apple TV+