11:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon Morning Show Drama Lands at Apple With Two-Season Order
Following a multiple-outlet bidding war, Apple has emerged as the victor for a morning show drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.
The tech giant has picked up the untitled project with a straight-to-series, two-season order (20 episodes total). Aniston (Friends) and Witherspoon (Big Little Lies) will star, executive produce and co-own the show alongside Michael Ellenberg's Media Res company, which will produce the series for Apple. Sources describe the price tag on the show as comparable to other premium fare with big stars attached. As for how racy it will be, that's still to be determined, as there are no scripts for the drama yet.
The show is described as an inside look at the lives of the people who help America wake up in the morning, exploring the unique challenges faced by the women (and men) who carry out this daily televised ritual. Brian Stelter's book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV — which was previously in development at Lifetime as a TV movie — will provide additional background for the show, which is based on an original concept by Ellenberg.
Aniston, who will make her first TV series regular return more than a decade after Friends, will exec produce via her Echo Films banner. Witherspoon, fresh off the success of HBO's Big Little Lies, will exec produce via her Hello Sunshine shingle. The series is written and executive produced by Emmy-nominated Jay Carson (House of Cards), who will also serve as showrunner. Aniston and Witherspoon, who memorably guest-starred as Aniston's younger sister on Friends, have remained friends over the years, with this project serving as an onscreen reunion. The package was taken out in July and drew interest from multiple outlets, including Showtime, sources say.
Since leaving his position as head of drama at HBO, Ellenberg has focused on development and teamed with Bron Studios to launch Media Res. The company's first project in the works is Scenes From a Marriage, a limited-series take based on the five-hour 1973 film, with In Treatment's Hagai Levi and playwright Amy Herzog attached.
The Aniston-Witherspoon drama becomes Apple's second straight-to-series order and joins Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories as the first projects the tech giant has picked up under programming heads Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht. The Amazing Stories anthology is being executive produced by Spielberg in partnership with Bryan Fuller, who will serve as showrunner. The drama will transport the audience to worlds of wonder through the lens of today's most imaginative filmmakers, directors and writers. Amblin Television's Darryl Frank, Justin Falvey and Hart Hanson are executive producers on the project from Universal Television.
What remains to be seen, however, is just how Apple will roll out its original scripted series, if it could utilize its streaming music service to do so and if the company — with $260 billion in surplus cash — will turn to assets like iPhones to market its programming.
Premiere dates for Amazing Stories and the morning news show have not been determined.
Aniston, who earned five Emmy nominations and won one for her role as Rachel Green on NBC's Friends, is repped by CAA, Lighthouse Management and Hansen Jacobson. Witherspoon, who has been active on the development side, won an Oscar for her role in 2000's Walk the Line and also scored a nomination for 2014's Wild. More recently, she received an Emmy nom for her starring role in HBO's Big Little Lies, with the limited series likely to return for a second season after taking home the win in the category. She is repped by CAA, LBI Entertainment and Hansen Jacobson.
Carson, repped by CAA and Management 360, has been with Netflix's House of Cards for the past three years, serving as a supervising producer and political consultant.
Stelter is repped by ICM Partners.