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Review

Aniston and Witherspoon shine, but 'The Morning Show' is a dark, loud miss

Alan Pergament

Disgraced former “Today” show host Matt Lauer might think he deserves a royalty check from the creators of the new Apple TV+ series “The Morning Show.”

The series starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell and Billy Crudup appears to be a fictionalized version of the downfall of Lauer and perhaps of CBS morning co-anchor Charlie Rose.

The series, which started streaming this week and has been heavily advertised on broadcast networks, is about the aftermath of a veteran co-host (Carell) being fired from a morning show for alleged sexual misconduct.

Aniston plays his network co-host of 15 years.

The series lifts the curtain behind the family atmosphere of morning shows that networks sell to their audiences. Created by Jay Carson, whose credits include Netflix’s “House of Cards,” the politics and power struggles in “The Morning Show” almost make the impeachment inquiry proceedings in Washington, D.C., seem like child’s play.

There isn’t a likable important character in the bunch, which is certainly counter to how morning shows want to be perceived.

If you want to hear Aniston and Witherspoon constantly raise their voices at co-workers, bosses and practically anyone in earshot, this is the show for you. I suspect just as many or more viewers will just want to cover their ears.

Aniston stars as Alex Levy, the co-anchor of the disgraced Mitch Kessler (Carell), who is in denial of his alleged wrongdoing and looking for ways to defend himself as his wife and agent abandon him.

Witherspoon stars as Bradley Jackson, a small-town reporter who gets on the radar of the slick, cynical network news president (Crudup) after her expletive-laden confrontation with a protester at a West Virginia coal mine goes viral.

Like Levy, Bradley is a volcano who is angry at the world and even at people in the news business who are trying to help her.

With CNN “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter as a consultant, the slick-looking series gives an insider’s view at morning news that may make watchers never look the same at the so-called family atmosphere that the networks sell.

There is some humor in the episodes, but it isn’t always intentional.

“The Morning Show” has more than a few preposterous and laughable moments in the first three episodes, made available for review, in which egotistical characters overestimate their importance.

It is scandalous prime-time entertainment satire about the selling of the family morning show genre.

Just about every ambitious person is a backstabber, out for themselves or trying to protect themselves.

Aniston and Witherspoon try to save the series with strong acting. They are exceptional playing strong, uncompromising women who try to avoid being taken advantage of by network executives. The actresses sell their characters’ anger, but it could be tough for viewers to buy much of their behavior. It often just doesn’t seem real, primarily because they likely would be fired for how they behave.

Carell is as good as ever as the co-host unwilling to accept responsibility for his actions, blaming what he sees as the overreaction of the #MeToo movement for becoming an outcast.

There is one moment in which Mitch is shown — before he was fired — interviewing someone accused of sexual misconduct as Lauer did before he was dismissed.

In another moment made famous by the allegations against Lauer, a “Morning Show” worker goes into an office and presses a button that appears to lock the door.

Crudup is terrific playing an unlikable, smiling, cynical and conspiratorial news executive who at one point suggests “the entire world of broadcast could just fall off a cliff in a few years unless we reinvent it.”

Of course, streaming sites like Apple TV+ are a big reason for the continuing broadcast network decline and the need for networks to reinvent themselves.

It is one of the most affordable streaming sites at $4.99 a month, with consumers who buy new Apple products reportedly getting a year for free.

With Disney+ and HBO Max about to join current streaming sites Amazon, Netflix, Epix, Acorn, CBS All-Access and Hulu and Comcast yet to announce its NBC plans, a consumer reportedly could spend more than $80 a month to stream all their programs.

As the cast of “The Morning Show” illustrates, the streaming sites have a lot of money to throw around, but it doesn’t guarantee successful, enjoyable or quality shows.

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