The Morning Show – Streaming or not streaming ?
Started late October, Apple TV+ completes its online
tv-show catalogue. For better or for worse ?
An early answer with the leading series : The Morning Show.
By Caroline Veunac
Reading time 5 min.
4,99 a month : that is how much it is going to cost to the tv-show lovers to enjoy the fictions made in Apple. New comer in the streaming market created by Netflix, the apple brand is trying to take its part against Amazon, Starz Play, SFR Play, Disney+ (expected in France on March 2020) and OCS Go. And it gives itself the means : The Morning Show, main production in the four series made, cost 150 million dollars for 10 episodes, if you are still impressed by the Majors’ ability to spend huge amounts of money amaze us.
As prestige goes, The Morning Show comes with a sledgehammer with a cast full of stars putting together an absolute small screen icon (Jennifer Aniston), an Oscar-winning actress (Reese Witherspoon), a comic genius in a So Long, Stooge syndrome (Steve Carell) and a hot actor-director (Mark Duplass). OK. But beyond walking tall, what does The Morning Show worth ?
The pitch is catchy. Created by Jey Carson and Kerry Ehrin, The Morning Show focuses on a talk-show set, and the unexpected alliance between the historical host, liberal Alex (Aniston) and a conservative big mouth (Witherspoon), coming to replace Alex’s duo, Mitch (Carell) put apart for sexual misconduct. All the themes are there : MeToo, real journalism against infotainment, clash between caviar democrats and loud libertarians… But the strings are thick : attached to the idea that a contemporary tv-show must comment its time and actualize the great American novel, the scenario screams America in every dialogues, this annoying habit sets the tone of the show where the inescapable high end series themes are patterns.
The result : even if the bright cast successfully puts emotion in it (Mainly Reese Witherspoon followed closely by the long teethed executive), The Morning Show looks like a travesty of a thoughtful show. Mimicking Aaron Sorkin Walk and Talk style, the show wants to be The West Wing but, lacking deepness, reminds us more the expected episodes of The Newsroom.
The Morning Show looks like a travesty of a thoughtful show.
The other first Apple dramas suffer from the same thing, which is even more frustrating knowing the talented Showrunners behind them. Why Ron Moore, creator of the great Battlestar Galactica, gave such a bland show with For All Mankind ? How did a great alternate history idea (in 1969, Russians are the first to walk on the moon) gets burdened by its 60’s reconstitution (Too much smoke, the space aiguilleur is a woman in a man’s world, etc) looking like a bleached Mad Men ersatz… And why Steven Knight, Peaky Blinders’ artisan, can’t level up See, new feudal dystopia in a world where all humans are blind (with Jason Momoa as a big barbarian, surprising) above some Game of Thrones-like full of Widing Refn’s Valhalla Rising dismantled references ?
With that much cultural recycling, these shows first appear like sub-products from manufactured authorism. Only Dickinson, rock’n’roll tell about American poetess’ youth, exceeds it concept (crazy mix between Jane Campion and Baz Luhrmann), making the fresh wind blow in this confined atmosphere. Imperfect but touching, here is a show not trying to check all the boxes, not silencing its author voice, Alena Smith, under multiple layers of technicity.
As soon as our watching ability gets overthrown by series offer, and streaming services have the means to produce well-built shows, quality should not be an exception. What tilts the balance in this abundance is rather vigor and sincerity of an actress or an author, necessity of a statement, strong enough to crack the posh veneer standardized in the series production.
That is why you should give a chance to The Morning Show, and maybe even For All Mankind and See. Probable victims of the high stakes that represent their premier, they are heat-and-eat products. But when pressure will fade, author might take the brief over and make the show more fragile, subtle and complex. Otherwise, like Carell’s character in The Morning Show, ragingly smashing his television, we might end up destroying our screen with a poker.