I’ve been watching the first season of The Morning Show recently. Mostly, I started because (a) Chloe’s been traveling, meaning that I can’t watch any of “our shows” which leaves me needing to find something else to entertain myself while she’s gone, and (b) I like the idea of the show in theory; I’m a sucker for stories about the media that try to tread that fine line between drama and comedy and feel as if they have things to say about The Human Condition as well as The Media. That it’s informed by Top of the Morning, a book about U.S. morning shows and the politics that go into their making that I particularly enjoyed way back when, just helps matters. On paper, The Morning Show is very me.
In practice, that’s not so true. It’s clear that the show means well, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into good drama or good television, especially when the meaning well overshadows everything else onscreen. Watching The Morning Show feels, repeatedly, like the work of people who watched Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom and thought, “Wait, what if we just did that, but stripped out the attempts at comedy? What if we just did the bits where they’re very convinced that they’re making Grand Statements About Life Today?”
(There are many things that The Newsroom did wrong — not as many as Sorkin’s earlier Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, admittedly, but that’s not saying much — but the shitty comedy was honestly not one of them for me. Did the jokes always land? Oh God no, not in the slightest. But did I appreciate the effort? Every single time.)
Worse yet, The Morning Show‘s attempts to share Grand Statements are handled clumsily, leading to a season-long #MeToo storyline that includes a scene where the abuser in question rails against his former best friend and co-host of the titular TV program at the heart of the series that America isn’t ready to “accept women’s complicity” in men’s abuse. That’s right! Not all men, some women too, get it? (Steve Carrell, bless him, tries his best with some genuinely bad material throughout.)
And yet, I stuck with it. Partly because, what else am I going to watch, and partly because, well, the show might not be great, but I really am a mark for the source material. That’s going to keep me there for some time… even if the prospect of a second season about the COVID outbreak feels a little daunting, as I head into it.