Jennifer Aniston’s fans have known she can do drama. Hollywood may want to keep her in the comedy box, and she still delivers, but she also finds vehicles to show she can stretch. So far, The Good Girl was her most promising dramatic role. It at least got acclaim if not awards and big box office. Derailed was another dramatic role, albeit in the form of a thriller. Cake wasn’t seen much but after The Morning Show, there will be no doubt that Jennifer Aniston is a dramatic force.
Jennifer Aniston leads ‘The Morning Show’ players
Alex (Jennifer Aniston) is the co-anchor of The Morning Show with Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell). When former assistants accuse Mitch of sexual misconduct, the network fires him leaving Alex alone at the desk. That’s going to get complicated, but first there’s more.
Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) is a field reporter. Covering a coal protest, she confronts an angry coal miner with facts he’s not even aware of. A video of the confrontation goes viral and lands Bradley an interview with Alex on The Morning Show. You can bet that’s not the last of Bradley’s role. They didn’t cast Reese Witherspoon, who also produces, for a cameo.
‘The Morning Show’ is heir to ‘The Newsroom’
It’s hard not to think of Aaron Sorkin when you watch articulate television producers yell at each other dramatically. The writing has its own voice, but it achieves the same goal as Sorkin’s. The strong writing shows us who these characters are immediately, and gives the actors definitive characters to play. These are adults with passionate points of view.
Mitch keeps justifying himself and it doesn’t work. He lashes out at a lawyer and then a woman on the street. His bravado to fight #MeToo is an interesting story because he believes his hype and he’s relentless. It’s admirable that Carell doesn’t try to make Mitch likable. When he paraphrases the Holocaust quote “first they came for,” there’s conviction that needs to be understood. It’s dramatically worthwhile to explore the sort of character who still believes he’s one of the good guys.
Chip (Mark Duplass) is the executive producer of The Morning Show and he’s just trying to put out fires. Cory (Billy Crudup) is the head of the network using the scandal to light more fires. They pack the first three episodes of The Morning Show with as much backstabbing as possible. I’m sure all of it happens in television, though all at once is probably dramatic license. We’ll see if the show keeps up that pace or settles into a more routine drama.
Jennifer Aniston plays the fiercest character on ‘The Morning Show’
With all these definitive dramatic characters on The Morning Show, Jennifer Aniston’s still stands out. The emotions Alex is going through, mourning the Mitch who was good, is palpable. That Mitch wasn’t real. He was always the Mitch who abused his power to sleep with young PAs and Alex has to make peace with that while still putting on a daily show.
Alex does a tough interview of Bradley asking the tough questions. She’s tough in her contract negotiations too. There are moments of levity where Aniston gets to play the frazzled, bubbly persona but those are private moments for Alex. In the workplace she not only holds her own but stays on top.
Reese Witherspoon’s ‘Morning Show’ character is less clear
Bradley Jackson seems like she’s supposed to represent the woman standing up to sexism in the industry, but there are some aspects to her character that suggest she’s exactly where her actions led her, and probably shouldn’t get as far as she does. A producer tells Bradley she’s not agreeable. Her own mother says, “Don’t take that tone.” That’s valid. Women are tone policed in a way men are not.
Bradley’s confrontation with the coal miner is satisfying, just to see a character armed with facts prevail. However, she continues to behave like that in settings where she should not be rewarded. Bradley is rude to Chip in an interview. She’s supposed to be idealistic, but that’s not a good way to impress a new boss. There’s taking the initiative, but also diplomacy. There’s sassy and then there’s just being rude.
If a producer doesn’t like your stories you don’t tell them they’re wrong. You come up with stories that are so good the producer can’t deny them. I hope that’s where The Morning Show is going, but I’m worried it’s just going to say Bradley’s bravado is enough to get her stories on the air.There is plenty of drama between Alex, Bradley, Chip and Cory, and some great speeches. Alex telling off the patriarchy in episode 3 is a real winner.
Three episodes may not be enough to judge the worldview The Morning Show is presenting. At this stage it’s certainly compelling enough to keep watching, and hopefully season 1 will get to a morally sound place.