'The Morning Show' is back, and this time there's a new billionaire on the show.

‘The Morning Show’ is back, and this time there’s a new billionaire on the show.

The Morning Show is about two horrible individuals who believe they are honourable. Bad journalists who mistakenly believe they are excellent journalists. Selfish individuals who believe they are compassionate. And, like the dead individuals in The Sixth Sense, their confusion about their own presence causes problems for those who see them clearly.

The third season begins with the words “March 10, 2022,” in line with the show’s habit of releasing its perspectives on recent events. The first of these two awful people, Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston), is seen in the opening sequence reviewing a draught of her own video obituary, which has been prepared in the event she dies during a planned rocket flight with billionaire Paul Marks (you may know him as Jeffmark Muskerzos), played by Jon Hamm.

Alex is doing well. Her hair is looking better than ever. She turned her sweaty “Oh no, I have COVID!” special into a successful streaming interview show, and she co-hosts The Morning Show (the fictional one, not the Apple one) part-time with Yanko (Néstor Carbonell) and Christina Hunter (new cast member Nicole Beharie), a charismatic ex-Olympic athlete. Alex’s next mission is to take a quick trip into space with Paul Marks. Is this a metaphorical opportunity? Unfortunately, yes.

Meanwhile, the nightly news is hosted by Alex’s former on-air colleague, Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), the second of our two disagreeable protagonist characters. What has happened to Bradley since we last saw her a year ago is revealed in a series of complex flashbacks, but suffice it to say that, like Alex, has continued to be disappointing as both a journalist and a person. As well as a citizen. And a member of the family! There is plenty going on.

The Morning Show isn’t horrible, but it’s highly inconsistent. This season’s strengths correspond to some of the prior seasons’ strengths. Cory (Billy Crudup) and Stella (Greta Lee) continue to be the most intriguing characters in our world (remember, this is fiction). TMS has given Lee, who has always killed it on this show, more substantial feeling to portray this time around, as it becomes evident she has a past with Marks. Cory is still emotionally entangled in an unreasonable infatuation on Bradley. Nonetheless, Crudup’s ability to do bizarre stunts that reveal Cory’s real enthusiasm for his profession makes his moments riveting. Mia (Karen Pittman) also gets a new tale, albeit most of it isn’t particularly well connected to the rest of the programme. Pittman is often expected to do a lot with a little, as has been the case both on this programme and throughout her career, and it’s astonishing how often she succeeds.

Furthermore, the makers of The Morning Show (the Apple one, not the fictitious one) know how to create a newsroom ride, for want of a better term — an all-hands, what-the-heck, kinetic scramble of the sort that occurs in actual newsrooms. There’s a lot to like about how those passages were executed. Stella dashes around the newsroom in a frenzy late in the season, and it’s quite amazing. And they keep casting fantastic actors: Nicole Beharie is a great addition. Tig Notaro appears as Marks’ right hand in a little but fascinating role. Of course, there’s Jon Hamm.

The potential that Marks may purchase UBA is the season’s driving plot, mainly dependent on Hamm’s excellent combination of charm and threat. Are you a billionaire? Considering purchasing a media company? And everyone is concerned about the consequences? You refer to the devil. So there’s a lot going on here. There is air under the show’s wings at times throughout the third season, and it seems to be taking off in new directions.

The planets are not aligned.

The issue is that The Morning Show always returns to its main protagonists. They are portrayed by the show’s two main stars. Because of the jarring disparity between the show’s narrative and production, they are its most serious flaw. These two ladies are described as villains, yet they are portrayed as heroes in the film.

Alex and Bradley are vividly drawn satirical examples of solipsistic celebrity journalists on the page. Alex exposed her coworkers to COVID, treats her coworkers horribly, repeatedly takes her one devoted friend (played by Mark Duplass) for granted, and ignored her co-anchor’s sexual harassment of others for years before hounding him to lie for her until she arguably convinced him to drive off an Italian cliff rather than continue the conversation. Her live COVID programme closed with a speech in which she said that she would do anything she wanted and that people might enjoy it or dislike it. This season, she deteriorates.

Bradley, although not as vile as Alex, accepted a position she was unqualified for and then often rejected the advise and demands of the show’s producers. She had an affair with someone she was reporting on. She attacked another journalist for properly reporting on Alex’s affair with her co-anchor and her apparent role in facilitating his transgressions, not for any substantial reason, but because she and Alex are friends, as she said. And that’s exactly what friends do! She tromped into a crowded hospital department, disregarding all regulations and endangering everyone present because she wanted to locate her brother. As one of Aniston’s former co-stars once observed in another context, everyone else was probably not in the emergency room, but rather in the predicament room. Bradley continues to deteriorate this season.

As written, they are despicable individuals. They are unethical, dishonest, irresponsible, self-obsessed, dismissive to their peers, coworkers, and friends, and have an overinflated feeling of their own significance. In a better world, this would be a Heathers-style parody of journalists, as black and bitter as biting into a coffee bean.

But, oh, the way Aniston and Witherspoon are portrayed on film. They have, of course, done well abroad and brought with them polished on-screen identities. They look fantastic. They both have enthralling, luscious hair. (For fun, Witherspoon was a brunette in the first season, but has since returned to Reese Classic Blonde.) They are well clothed. They are illuminated in the manner of angels. More substantively, speeches intended as narcissistic rants are filmed as moments of truth — lighted, scored, edited, and arranged within episodes and seasons. In the end, they are the ones who arrive at the great hero moments, even if nothing in their behaviour indicates they would. The whole programme is likely best understood as a proof of the powers of celebrity, since it would be evident that these characters are ghouls if they were not portrayed by gorgeous and beloved actors who exude what Hollywood calls likability for women.

Journalism I.

One source of this gap is the show’s misunderstanding of journalism — or, at least, the prevailing misunderstanding of it. What The Morning Show portrays as the correct thing to do for a journalist is entirely based on individualism: what counts most is having a decent heart, which is defined as striving to assist people you like. That’s why Bradley’s choice to attack anybody who tried to point up Alex’s role in a long-running sexual harassment scandal merely because the two of them are friends was portrayed as a hero moment, a chance to unite. I won’t give anything away, but there is a scene in this season when Bradley does something unethical — something even a high school newspaper reporter would know is illegal — but it’s framed as the natural byproduct of what a kind person she is.

The programme dips its toes into aspects that are, if not beyond its understanding, at least beyond its inclination to explore. Rather than admitting that Alex and Bradley would be difficult to work with, it portrays them as spirited when they impede and cause issues for their lower-paid colleagues. (Does Alex complain about the obituary’s production? Obviously, even though she’ll be dead if it’s ever required. Even an homage to her, a gauzy hagiography that nobody will ever see on-air and she will certainly not, does not make Alex stop moaning.)

And now we have… Don Draper.

So it seems fitting that Jon Hamm, the emblem of the prestige-TV antihero wave, enters this realm. Hamm has mastered roles such as Don Draper and, yes, Paul Marks. He may use both their polish and their proclivity to do damage. Don’s attractiveness was a lever he used on Mad Men; his ability to convince posed a risk to his wife and children, the women he slept with, and the people he worked with. The things about him that were evil and broken were written in, but the production understood them as well. When Don delivered the legendary Carousel presentation to Kodak in the Mad Men first-season finale “The Wheel,” his words were powerful and emotional to everyone in the room, but the music behind the speech was sad. It was weighty, and it made the scenario seem sceptical by his remarks, even if others believed them. Don then returned home to an empty house, the consequence of his poor treatment of his family. The elements collaborated.

But when Alex Levy gave a speech last season about how unfair everyone was to her at the end of a season full of insensitive and self-centered behaviour, the music twinkled, then swelled, then settled on a determined, upbeat piano as her producer (Mark Duplass, who incidentally gets one knock-you-out wonderful moment this season) smiled and nodded in cutaway shots. The components did not complement each other.

A show’s principal characters might be not just imperfect but also genuinely nasty and untrustworthy. It may have heroes, flawed heroes, antiheroes, or none at all. Discord — not complexity, but confusion — caused by aspects of the same programme about the same characters does not work. And keep in mind that Witherspoon and Aniston’s abilities aren’t the problem; they’re both perfectly capable of leaning into the nastiness of these ladies. Instead, Alex and Bradley sit on precarious pedestals, bolstered by undeserved applause, like Don Draper returning home after the Carousel presentation to find dinner on the table, his lovely wife waiting, and a joyful vintage music playing on the record player.

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