“The Morning Show” is a poignant yet melodramatic portrayal of the #MeToo movement

Streaming recommendation of the week 9/17/20


Courtesy of Apple

“The Morning Show” features a star-studded cast.

Shreyas Banerjee, A&E Editor

Trigger Warning: sexual assault, sexual abuse.

Since the 2017 exposure of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse against dozens of women, the #MeToo movement has dominated American conversation. It has led to the exposure of countless sexual abuses, including here at Case Western Reserve University, and oustings of numerous predatory men across numerous industries.

And now, it seems as if the media is starting to catch up to this new American paradigm, with “The Morning Show.”

The flagship show of Apple’s new streaming service, Apple TV+, “The Morning Show” is seemingly inspired by Matt Lauer’s sexual misconduct and subsequent dismissal as host of “The Today Show,” and deals with the power struggles that follow such a sudden change. The Lauer stand-in here is Mitch Kessler (Steve Carrell), who won’t admit any wrongdoing aside from a few affairs and strives to differentiate himself from the other “bad” #MeToo abusers. His plot plays out mostly in the background, but his absence permeates the show as everyone is left constantly dealing with the after-effects of his misconduct.
Instead, the show mostly focuses on the other lead anchor of the show, Alexy Levy, played by Jennifer Aniston, who struggles to maintain control of her show as studio politics play out. In a bid to get one over on her studio bosses, Alex surprise recruits Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), a rough and controversial reporter with no anchor experience, to be her co-host, which creates considerable drama as the show tries to evade fading into obscurity.

Meanwhile, more details of Kessler’s misconduct continue to come out, which could mean doom for certain studio executives who protected him, while also signalling opportunity for Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup), a new executive who recently took over the news division and smells blood. All this occurs while other affairs are going on between members of the show and Kessler attempts to mount a campaign to clear his name.

If you couldn’t tell, this show is more than worthy of being designated as a “drama.”

But that is perhaps to its detriment. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when music like Mozart’s “Requiem” played over a scene of two opposed characters crossing each other on escalators, or Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” being used as the soundtrack for a fisticuff between a producer and a show-member.

That being said, all of this is underscored by seriously well-written conversations about the nature of the #MeToo movement and why sexual harassment and abuse can be so damaging. Combined with great performances from the entire cast, particularly Aniston, the show can at times be a hard-hitting drama conveying a deeper message about relationships, complicity and power. When the show isn’t so concerned with boosting the melodrama, it becomes a deep, character-focused show that isn’t scared of creating conversation about important issues.

Time will tell if the second season is able to improve upon the first, as the series has a lot of potential. It may not be worth signing up for Apple TV+ over, but it has its moments. Hopefully its success will spark the production of more (and improved) shows about the #MeToo movement, as it is something that everyone should talk about as we try to redevelop the social landscape in the workplace.

Addendum: We’d like to indicate some resources for students dealing with sexual assault:
Office of Equity
Flora Stone Mather Center for Women
Office of Residence Life
University Health Services
University Counseling Services
Student Advocate for Gender Violence Prevention, Education and Advocacy
Survivors and Friends Empowerment (SAFE) Line
Cleveland Rape Crisis Center

Correction: “‘The Morning Show’ is a poignant yet over-dramatic portrayal of the #MeToo movement” was the original title of this piece. We changed “over-dramatic” to “melodramatic” to more accurately reflect this piece’s message.

Correction: It’s been brought to our attention that although the 2017 revelation of Weinstein’s sexual abuse was the first high-profile case that brought the #MeToo movement to national attention, we should have credited Tarana Burke with founding the movement back in 2006. Sexual assault is not a new problem, nor is this a new conversation.

Correction: Originally, the last clause of the first paragraph read “and downfalls of numerous predatory men across numerous industries.” We changed the word “downfalls” to “oustings” in order to eliminate any connotations or implications that these men were unfairly punished.

Correction: We eliminated the clause “while also drawing attention to the gray areas found in many situations” from the end of this sentence: “That being said, all of this is underscored by seriously well-written conversations about the nature of the #MeToo movement and why sexual harassment and abuse can be so damaging.” Upon further review, we found that this clause was potentially dismissive of victims’ voices and accusations. The Observer does not stand for such dismissiveness.

Correction: “For now, this is a decent start” used to be the final sentence of this piece. We removed it because it is too much of an opinionated value statement about this show’s place in the landscape of the #MeToo movement.