Friday, September 17, 2021

REVIEW: 'The Morning Show' - Alex, Bradley and Cory Deal with the Fallout of Their Explosive Broadcast in 'My Least Favorite Year'

AppleTV+'s The Morning Show - Episode 2.01 "My Least Favorite Year"

Controversy and betrayal strike TMS as a new year approaches. Alex faces a difficult decision.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of AppleTV+'s The Morning Show.

"My Least Favorite Year" was written by Erica Lipez, Adam Milch & Kerry Ehrin and directed by Mimi Leder

This show is performative to a fault. It's easy to appreciate several performances that feel fully realized - most notably Billy Crudup's. But the overwhelming impulse is to play to the audience instead of trying to maintain some sense of internal consistency and agency. The first season ended with Alex and Bradley essentially blowing up everything. That set up the expectation of a lot of drama at the start of this season. Their fates were uncertain in the aftermath. Their allies would also have to deal with the fallout of what they broadcast. It was in that one, singular moment that they all felt united. Consequences do rain down at the show. That's just the first act though. The rest of the premiere is all about trying to reestablish the status quo. Cory is fired. And then, he is suddenly back in charge with even more power. Alex and Bradley agree that they have to present as a united front. They agree on that and in keeping Hannah's name out of the press. That lasts for only a second. The moment others enter the conversation, Alex breaks away. Bradley remains on the show. She essentially swallows her pride and does whatever the network asks of her. She is presented as someone who was just an innocent bystander. She went along with the people with more experience in this business. The story is about what Cory allowed on the set and Alex ultimately leaving. And yet, Alex's departure is never allowed to be something of merit. Cory becomes obsessed with bringing her back. That's inevitable. The show is basically all about Alex and Bradley anchoring a morning news show. That's the premise. It's inescapable for them no matter how much they want to define their lives elsewhere. Bradley wants to produce more serious news stories. As such, she believes that transitioning to the evening news at the network would be more appropriate for her. She is never considered as a serious candidate. She is laughed out of the room. She expects respect for all that she has done for the network. She feels entitled to it. She surely won't let Cory forget that she saved his job. That's the only explanation given as to why Cory is still in charge. It's still insane. But the chaotic energy he brings to the proceedings is always fun. No one can ever trust him. But Alex and Bradley frequently find themselves in positions where he appears to be the only person in power who understands what they are trying to do. He understands the media ecosystem and how to manipulate it. He is a man with a vision. He can make and break deals at any moment. It's a roller coaster. One where he is constantly riding and hoping to achieve success. This premiere is basically about encouraging Alex to come back to the show. And again, that's just the inevitable outcome. That robs so much urgency out of the proceedings. It prevents the show from being what it sets out to be. Instead, it's going through the motions of consequences without highlighting the profound personal connection. The show will be different. But the series spends more time highlighting the eerie foreshadows of life pre-pandemic. That is the most performative aspect of this premiere. It's incredibly in-your-face about people dismissing concerns about a new virus, sneezing around others in close contact, licking strangers' faces and more. It wants the dichotomy of showing images of an empty New York City at the height of lockdown in comparison to how the new year started. It's still just chaotic energy. The show is using the pandemic to encourage all of that as well. It's a plot point meant to inject chaos into the proceedings. That isn't necessary. That would have been true no matter what. In execution, it's the show wanting to be topical in order to reflect our current reality. But again, that always comes across as playing to the audience instead of trying to tell a meaningful internal story about its own characters. They exist in a world much larger than their own identities. That's a part of life in the news business. They decide what's covered and what matters. But the audience is trusted to look dismissively at all of this. That makes it hard to feel invested. Hannah's family suing the network for wrongful death introduces plenty of exciting drama for the future. It's not what the focus of the season is going to be. That's lackluster and showcases the narrative's own limitations in trying to aspire for something greater than what it is capable of handling successfully. And yet, Alex and Bradley are back hosting the morning show. It's probably only a matter of time before Chip returns as well. Nothing has changed despite meaningful change being the overarching message that everyone continually chases after. UBA is pure chaos. It's no longer being driven by a ratings war. Now, it's fighting for survival and that doesn't create easy or trustworthy friends. Again, the elements are here to make this a tantalizing and exciting soap opera set in a high stakes world. The ambition just dictates a greater, more glossy and thought-provoking message instead of being what would actually be engaging to watch.