‘The Morning Show’ Episode 1 review: ‘In the Dark Night of the Soul It’s Always 3:30 in the Morning’ and too early for social commentary

Apple TV+ The Morning Show poster

The Morning Show is, for all intents and purposes, the flagship series for the fledgling Apple TV+ streaming service. It’s been front-and-center for just about everything regarding the service, due mostly to its cast, and, also, the fact that it aims to tackle some serious issues.

[Editor’s Note: There will be minor spoilers in this review for the first episode, but this is not meant to be a full recap of the episode.]

This is a morning show drama, meant to show the intricacies of life for those who help millions of Americans wake up in the morning. At the same time, it’s also a drama about several different cultural movements over the last few years, including “#MeToo” and “cancel culture” in general. As such, it’s worth noting right here and now that, even in just the first episode, we can’t avoid talking about them.

That being said, let’s get into the nitty gritty. The Morning Show stars Jennifer Aniston (Friends) as Alex Levy, the co-host of the fictional show of the same name. Steve Carell (The Office) is Mitch Kessler, the other co-host of the morning program, at least until he gets fired for sexual misconduct. Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies) is Bradley Jackson, a Conservative news anchor that’s called onto the show after an incident with a protestor, but obviously as her sights set on a more permanent position with the network.

Billy Crudup (Watchmen) is Cory Ellison, the head of news, and Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed) as Charlie Black as Executive Producer. The series also stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Concussion) as Hannah Shoenfeld, Nestor Carbonell (Bates Motel) as Yanko Flores, and much more. The cast really is impressive.

The show starts with Kessler (Carell) getting fired due to the sexual misconduct complaints against him. From there things spiral out of control as one would expect.

It’s safe to say that this is the most “standard” of the big-budget shows that Apple has on its new streaming service. Yes, the budget is probably huge (as it should be, all things considered), but we’re not dealing with vast vistas or period pieces. This is a modern day drama and the money comes down to performances.

Good news: they’re great! It’s fun to see Aniston and Witherspoon go toe-to-toe (for anyone who watched them as sisters Rachel and Jill Green on Friends has something to look forward to reminisce). With everyone in this show it would have been shocking if the performances were anything less than stellar. So the safe part of the show is, well, safe.

The dialogue is not as snappy as some similar shows – no one will mistake this script for Aaron Sorkin’s work – but it does the trick for the most part. There are moments, especially with Crudup and Witherspoon and Aniston, that really stand out. It’s always nice to watch great actors chew through meaty dialogue and make it believable. That’s what you’re getting here.

It gets a little dicey, even in just the first episode. After Kessler’s allegations come to light, we viewers don’t actually know if Kessler actually sexually assaulted anyone. Of course, Kessler pleads and calls out to high heaven that he’s innocent, and the show doesn’t go to great lengths to tell us otherwise.

I’m not going to go into the particulars here or dig into the details, but it does boil down to the simple fact that most of these elements in the show ring hollow. The Morning Show does try to make bold statements, and it’s worth noting that a major show like this is at least attempting to address these things right up front (it’s definitely not buried in between the lines), but it all feels sort of double-sided.

Like it’s all stuck in the middle and, at least so far, doesn’t feel comfortable in coming down on either side of things, for better or worse.

But we’re just in the first episode and things could change. Maybe The Morning Show actually has something to say by the time it’s over, rather than just riding the line and hoping for the best.

Still, at least getting there appears to be worth the ride so far. The show’s not going to blow anyone’s minds, I don’t think, and its softball approach to its major topics may rile others up. But Apple says it wants to focus on personal drama with its first shows for Apple TV+ and it’s safe to say that The Morning Show fits that bill.

The Morning Show gets a thumbs up from me so far, and, honestly, I’d say it’s probably Apple TV+’s best show, but it has an uphill battle in front of it that, so far, it doesn’t feel like it’s really ready to mount.

We’ll see how it all turns out eventually.