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[This story contains spoilers from the first three episodes of Apple’s The Morning Show.]
Kerry Ehrin is very careful about spoilers when it comes to looking beyond the first three episodes of The Morning Show. But after an introductory drop into the fictional world created by the showrunner, it seems safe to say that the show-within-a-show is going to change by the end of the first season of the Apple drama.
“It’s like you’re pulling a thread from a beautiful rug and unraveling it slowly, and you see what you are left with at the end,” Ehrin tells The Hollywood Reporter of what’s to come from the remaining seven episodes.
The first episodes, which launched as a three-part premiere when the Apple TV+ streaming service made its anticipated debut on Nov. 1, set the foundation for the Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon series. Set in the post-#MeToo era, The Morning Show opens with the headline-making firing of beloved male anchor Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) over multiple sexual misconduct allegations. In response, his co-anchor, Alex Levy (Aniston), the network executives and the show’s staff, led by executive producer Chip Black (Mark Duplass), are forced to pick up the pieces, confront or cover up their own complicity, and figure out how to save America’s top-rated morning news show from the scandal.
“Thematically, the idea of showing different perspectives and people going through this fluid process of trying to understand what the fuck has happened is the story,” Ehrin says with a laugh. “And it’s complicated, because it affects every single relationship in relationship to each other. So there are all different equations of human relationships that are being challenged by this and re-thought and re-understood.”
The focus of the first three episodes orbits around Alex and newcomer Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), the rising-star reporter who, thanks to being championed by new network executive Corey Ellison (Billy Crudup), becomes a pawn in Alex’s fight with network boss Fred Mickland (Tom Irwin), to Bradley’s own professional benefit. During a public event with some of the most prominent journalists, Alex announces Bradley as Mitch’s replacement in a bid to control her own narrative after finding out that the network has been scheming to replace her. Though the headstrong women clash initially, the end of the third episode sees Alex taking Bradley under her wing and offering her the kind of support only Alex could: Before Bradley’s first show, Alex grabs her hand and whispers, “Don’t fuck it up.”
Ehrin says that showcasing a sophisticated, complex female work relationship — one that can still be competitive — was part of her initial pitch to Apple about what she wanted to be at the heart of the show. “They don’t stay in conflict the entire season,” she says about her two starring characters, who are played by hands-on exec producers Aniston and Witherspoon. “They have twists and turns in their relationship that are profound. But [them being in conflict] is definitely not the center of any storytelling. I wanted to tell a story about two smart, high-profile women who forge a relationship and what that looks like, and all the subtleties and nuances of it. It’s complicated.”
In fact, Bradley’s unfiltered personality and naive ambition will continue to have an effect on seasoned anchor Alex and many others who work on The Morning Show, which is affectionately referred to as “TMS” by the characters. “Bradley brings a boldness to a world that has lived in a sort of cloaked environment, either intentionally or unintentionally, and her presence in it starts to dissolve some of the internal and external guards that people have put up around themselves,” Ehrin says.
As The Morning Show follows the fallout from Mitch’s #MeToo scandal, questions about complicity continue to swirl both inside and outside of the control room. And after giving viewers a taste of his side of the story, Mitch will also continue to fight to either clear his name or take others down with him.
Executive producer Michael Ellenberg explains that these first three episodes set up not only the rest of the season but also what’s to come from the series. The Morning Show was given a two-season, 20-episode order, and Ehrin is already back in the writers room working on the second season, telling THR that she envisions a long future for the show.
“The first three episodes complete the structure of the show, not just for this year but beyond: Bradley and Alex end up on the same show together; Mitch is trying to figure out how to come back into this world to seek redemption or revenge, we’re not sure; and what’s special is that we’re able to subvert the trope of female competition,” Ellenberg tells THR. “Instead, we’re in a really interesting question about a female relationship. Can they be colleagues? Can they be rivals? Can they be friends?”
He continues, “Bradley’s on a journey where she has to decide if she wants to make these compromises and changes to her personality. She’s raw. She’s herself. She’s a truth-teller. And to do that job well, you’ve got to compromise that a little bit. So she’s on one journey, and I would say Alex is on another journey. She’s going rawer and truer, and that’s not who she’s been the last ten years. And that’s going to cause them a lot of human pain, a lot of joy and drama. It’s great. It’s beautiful.”
The Morning Show releases new episodes weekly on Fridays on Apple TV+.
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