Is ‘The Morning Show’ Based on a True Story? The Answer is Complicated

Apple TV+’s The Morning Show Season 2 returned with Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell on Sept. 17, 2021. In season 1, Alex Levy’s (Aniston) world toppled when the network fired her co-anchor of 15 years, Mitch Kessler (Carell). The drama series, which tackled the #metoo movement, is so similar to real-life events that many viewers wonder if the show was based on a true story. 

The Morning Show cast stars Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon
‘The Morning Show’: Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon | Apple TV+

Is ‘The Morning Show’ based on a true story?

The easy answer to this question is that The Morning Show is a fictional drama on Apple TV+, not based on any one person. However, a non-fiction book inspired the series: Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV by Brian Stelter. The book describes several events that Stelter saw while working as a media reporter for The New York Times. 

He also zeroes in on Ann Curry, replacing Meredith Vieira on The Today Show. However, Stelter writes that the network pushed her out of the show after less than a year as co-host. According to Entertainment Weekly, Mark Ellenberg brought the idea for the series to Aniston and Witherspoon. His idea largely stemmed from a moment in 1989 when he witnessed the network replace Jane Pauley as the host of The Today Show. Many believe the replacement came because of her age, something that The Morning Show touches on with Aniston’s character, Alex.

The book also follows the rivalry between Good Morning America and Today, which could be the basis for The Morning Show’s competition with Your Day, America.

‘The Morning Show’ and Matt Lauer

The idea that Ellenberg, Aniston, and Witherspoon pitched to Apple wasn’t what transpired for The Morning Show Season 1. As the producers developed the new series for Apple TV+, Matt Lauer was one of the highest-paid news anchors for NBC’s Today show.

“We started developing it in August, and by November, the whole world had changed,” Witherspoon explained to Entertainment Weekly.


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On Nov. 29, 2017, NBC fired Lauer for alleged sexual misconduct allegations. According to Business Insider, an employee filed a complaint about “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” This complaint prompted the termination of his job as co-host of the morning show. In the months that followed, he came forward to apologize but denied some of the allegations. After watching The Morning Show Season 1, viewers can see many similarities between Mitch Kessler and Matt Lauer.

Aniston and Witherspoon agreed that they had to address the #metoo movement in their new morning show series.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a time in my life where more people have lost their entire careers over misconduct,” Witherspoon explained to the outlet. “People who were seemingly untouchable. We had to start totally over and redevelop the show, but it actually turned out to be so much more potent and topical.”

Season 2 is also based on current events

When The Morning Show Season 2 opens, the news organization is grappling with reporting news on the coronavirus (COVID-19) as it sweeps the world. It also explores racial injustice and racial biases in the workplace. Originally Steve Carell only signed a one-year contract for the Apple TV+ series. However, he reprised his role for season 2 as Mitch. Viewers watch the aftermath and fallout for him after the sexual misconduct scandal in season 1.

Although a non-fiction book and real-life current events inspire The Morning Show, it is not based on any one person’s life or news show. The Morning Show Season 1 is currently streaming on Apple TV+.