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Series / The Morning Show

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The Morning Show (alternatively Morning Wars in some regions) is a drama series created for Apple TV+ created by Jay Carson (House of Cards) and Kerry Ehrin (Bates Motel) and loosely based on the non-fiction book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV by Brian Stelter.

Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) is the face of The Morning Show, a popular and influential morning news show on the fictional UBA network. When her longtime co-anchor Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) is ousted in a sexual misconduct scandal, she finds herself struggling to cope with the scrutiny on the show as well as herself, while rising reporter Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) threatens her lofty position in journalism.

Boasting an All-Star Cast, The Morning Show also features Billy Crudup, Mark Duplass, Gugu Mbatha Raw, Nestor Carbonell, and Jack Davenport in major supporting roles. The series premiered as a launch title with Apple TV+ on November 1st 2019, alongside See, Dickinson, and For All Mankind among others. Season 2 premiered on September 17, 2021 and a third season was announced on January 11th, 2022.

Not to be confused with Morning Glory, a 2010 romcom similarly set behind the scenes of a morning show, nor the Elvis Duran Morning Show, a long-running syndicated radio program.

The Morning Show contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion:
    • Bradley sarcastically asks if she should dye her hair blonde to be more attractive to viewers (and at some point between seasons 1 and 2, she actually does). Reese Witherspoon is of course actually blonde.
    • Steve Carell as a high-ranking (or at least formerly high-ranking!) white collar whose wall-mounted, plasma screen television gets destroyed? Sounds familiar.
    • Alex's back problems in Season 2 are very reminiscent of Jennifer Aniston's role as someone with chronic pain in Cake, including a scene of her struggling to sleep.
  • All There in the Script: The names of Mitch's two sons (Teddy and Jeff) are never mentioned in the show itself, appearing only in the credits of the episodes they appear in.
    • Averted in season 2, when Bradley says their names while announcing Mitch's death on TMS.
  • Alphabet News Network: The fictional UBA. Also Bradley's former employer, SENN (South East News Network).
  • And Starring: The final acting credit in the season one opening credits (as well as those of the season 2 episodes Mitch appears in) reads "And Steve Carell".
  • Artistic License – History: In season 2, the camera pans over a collection of magazines on Alex, which includes a copy of Entertainment Weekly dated July 26, 2019. In reality, the last weekly edition of Entertainment Weekly was July 5th as the magazine switched to a monthly format.
  • As You Know: At the end of Episode 6, Alex's daughter goes into exposition while describing her father's (Alex's estranged husband's) accomplishments.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Alex, Mitch and Hannah - whose last names are Levy, Kessler and Shoenfeld respectively.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Played with in the season 1 finale. When Hannah is found dead in her apartment, there is vomit on her shirt - but yet her face and mouth are completely clean. Not to mention the fact that she looks remarkably good for someone who had been struggling with PTSD, sleep deprivation and alcohol and drug abuse for quite some time.
  • Birthday Episode: The first half of season one's flashback episode, "Lonely at the Top", focuses on Mitch's 50th birthday - culminating in the entire TMS crew throwing him a Surprise Party.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Probably one of the few times this trope is justified. Lizzy's relationship with her mother Alex is strained, due to the latter's workaholic tendencies and treatment of her now-estranged husband, Lizzy's father (whom Lizzy is very close to) - including the fact that she cheated on him with Mitch. Lizzie confronts her mother about her actions in season one episode 7. It doesn't go well. Alex angrily lashes out at her daughter, giving her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: As stated below in We Used to Be Friends, Alex distanced herself from Laura when the latter was outed as gay, and Laura strongly suspects Alex was the one who outed her to the network. Upon Laura's return, Alex expresses bewilderment regarding Laura's distant demeanor to her, and confesses that she is honestly not sure whether she mentioned Laura's sexuality to the wrong people or not at some point.
  • But Not Too Gay: Bradley applies it to herself, insisting that she refuses to give herself any kind of label, which her girlfriend Laura calls out as just wanting to avoid the stigma it would give her in the industry, which she had to go through after being outed against her will.
  • Call-Back: In "A Seat at the Table", a newly single Mitch breaks down in tears when he can't get his Nespresso machine to work. Six episodes later, in the flashback "Lonely at the Top", we find out why he struggled - his wife had always fixed his morning coffee for him.
  • Cassandra Truth: Alex doesn't believe Mitch when he says that the network is planning on firing her. Turns out he's right.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Paola definitely has shades of this. Perhaps the most blatant example is when she sings about Mussolini in the middle of a crowded outdoor gelateria.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Going by how much virtually everyone on the show does this, you'd think swearing was a requirement for being in the Journalism industry.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: A text message conversation between Mitch and Paola in "La Amara Vita" implies that Paola gets very creative in the kitchen.
    Paola: What, you don't like the way I make them?
    Mitch: The pieces of shell did make for an interesting experience
    Paola: Every meal should have a crunch
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Essentially what the entire series is about.
  • Diagonal Billing: Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon in the credits.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Bradley's parents split up when she was young, after which her father disappeared for several years.
    • Hannah's father admits to being largely absent from his daughter's life.
    • Mitch becomes this temporarily when his wife leaves him after his sexual misconduct comes to light and takes their two sons with her... And then permanently when he dies in a single vehicle car crash in season 2.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: In "La Amara Vita", Paola slaps Mitch across the face after he repeatedly rebuffs her advances. Not only is this depicted as a mostly playful moment between the two, but Mitch is actually turned on by Paola's behavior (and coitus ensues). This is especially jarring when you consider that one of the main themes of this show is the importance of holding male abusers accountable.
  • Downfall by Sex: Mitch Kessler had it all - until his sexual misconduct came to light.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Possibly in the season 1 finale, when Hannah kills herself with pills after having revisited the night Mitch raped her. The show leaves it ambiguous as to whether the overdose was intentional or accidental - and Gugu Mbatha-Raw has stated that she believes it was the latter.
    • In Season 2, Mitch himself has an intense discussion with Alex laying out all the remaining emotions between them, and decides that's as much cathartic closure as he's ever going to get, so when an approaching car blinds him with its high beams and causes him to swerve to avoid it, he declines to take back control of his car and crashes over a cliff.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Bradley is known as "Two Fucks Jackson" among the Journalism community, because of the time she let two F-bombs slip - on live TV.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Mitch Kessler is a sexual predator who sees nothing wrong with "seducing" his female subordinates. However, when his director friend Dick Lundy says he doesn't find anything "sexy" about consent and all but admits to raping underaged girls, he is clearly horrified and immediately tries to distance himself from the guy.
  • Exact Words: In "Fever", Cory's assistant Kyle informs Paola (who is due to fly back to Italy soon) that Cory is too busy to meet with her right now and she'll have to wait until she's back in New York to contact him again. So Paola obliges... By driving to New Jersey and then back to New York before paying Cory a visit.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: The time jump starting season 2 shows Bradley (who had mocked getting her hair dyed in the first season) now having blonde hair to show her new role as the lead anchor.
  • Foreign Language Title: The seventh episode of season 2, which takes place entirely in Italy, is fittingly titled "La Amara Vita"- Italian for "The Bitter Life".
  • Fox News Liberal: Bradley is ostensibly conservative, but always demurs actually giving a solid opinion and insists "the truth" is all that matters.
  • Gambit Pileup: Just about everyone at the network is looking to get rid of someone else, and Mitch’s firing sends all their plans into overdrive trying to be the first one to make their move.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Bradley is usually a masculine name, but given to a woman here. Alex too, to an extent.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Nearly everybody has this. Almost any interaction feels like it could lead to a screaming match at any moment.
    • Mitch is perhaps the most notable example of this, at least in season 1 (by season 2 he's calmed down a bit). You'd be hard pressed to find a time when he isn't going off on somebody (heck, even inanimate objects aren't safe from his fury - in the very first episode he smashes his TV with a fire iron after watching Alex announce his firing live on TMS).
  • Heroic BSoD: Hannah essentially shuts down when Mitch rapes her. The camera makes this even more dramatic by locking in on a close-up of her frozen, terrified face - it's heartbreaking to watch.
  • How We Got Here: After a brief follow-up to the Season 1 cliffhanger, Season 2 begins showing the deserted streets of New York during the height of the Covid-19 lockdowns. It then flashes to New Year's Eve with the characters having no idea what was to come.
  • The Hypocrite: Season 1's "Lonely at the Top" focuses heavily on Mitch Kessler's predatory behavior, including the night he raped Hannah in his hotel room. At the end of the episode, the TMS crew is watching with the rest of the country as the Harvey Weinstein scandal breaks. Mitch's immediate reaction? "What a creep!" Yeah.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: Not a literal example, but it definitely still qualifies. After watching Alex announce his firing to the entire nation live on TMS, Mitch goes off on a rant to his agent and other "people" about how unfair UBA is being to him. He insists that he is innocent, he did engage in multiple affairs but those aren't illegal; everything was consensual, the women enjoyed it - with one even going so far as to tell him he taught her "how to have good sex", most of them came on to him, etc (99 percent of which, of course, is complete hogwash). All while his wife is standing approximately five feet away from him. Mr. Kessler finds himself single in a hurry.
  • Indy Ploy: Alex admits she's completely winging it by entrapping the network into bringing Bradley on board, and the execs indeed quickly start spinning it to another way to get rid of her. Bradley pays her back by going off-script in her first appearance, telling the ugly truth about her past the network is trying to cover up and perhaps sarcastically telling Alex she has no idea why she did it.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Bradley is reckless and not afraid to insert herself into the stories she covers.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Cory initially comes off as a cross between a Cloud Cuckoo Lander and an asshole, but through Season 1, it becomes increasingly clear that he is willing to do the right thing, though it is sometimes to his benefit (such as the plan to take down Fred.)
  • Jumping Out of a Cake: Dick Lundy (Mitch's director friend, played by Martin Short) did it in "Lonely at the Top" at Mitch's surprise 50th birthday party. He then immediately proceeds to lead a group of suggestively-clad dancers in a very raunchy song and dance number about TMS's top anchor (keep in mind this is a flashback episode) and his, er, hobbies.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: During the finale, Chip punches Mitch in the face and then reveals that he was the one who leaked the Mitch story to The New York Times, all in the name of saving Alex’s job.
  • Lonely at the Top: The eighth episode of Season 1 is named after - and themed around - this Trope.
  • The Maiden Name Debate: In season 2 episode 9 ("Testimony"), Mitch's ex-wife Paige reveals that she has gone back to her maiden name, Jacobs.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places:
    • Bradley and a bartender are shown getting frisky in an alley at one point.
    • Discussed with Mitch. Several people talk about how he engaged in, ahem, (mostly non-consensual) extracurricular activities everywhere from his dressing room to gas station bathrooms.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: In season 2, Paola is this for Mitch. Subverted in that, while Paola DOES help Mitch start to loosen up (even to the point of convincing him to conquer his fear of intimacy by sleeping with her), he dies in a car accident before he can make any meaningful changes in his life.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Since the show's main focus is power dynamics and abuse of power in the workplace (especially by men), there are quite a few instances of this. Mitch is perhaps the worst offender - among other things, this is how he convinces Hannah to go with him to his hotel room so he can rape her. Ironically, Hannah is shown to be quite manipulative herself at times, particularly in how she goes after potential TMS guests.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Mitch is friends with a Hollywood director (played by Martin Short) - who turns out to be an Expy of numerous real-life directors (such as Bryan Singer, Woody Allen and Roman Polanski) who have been involved in major sexual assault scandals (the crimes the guy is accused of are so heinous that even Mitch ends up having a hard time stomaching him!). The director's name? Dick Lundy.
    • Though it was most likely completely unintentional on the part of the showrunners, "Mitch" is a shortened form of "Mitchell", which means "who is like God". Pretty fitting for a guy with an ego the size of Texas!
  • Men Get Old, Women Get Replaced: In-universe. Before finding themselves embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal, the higher-ups at UBA fully intended to fire the 40-somethingish Alex in favor of a younger female co-anchor (which Alex later calls them out for). The approximately 52-year-old Mitch (he marks the big five-oh in the flashback episode "Lonely at the Top", which takes place around two years before the rest of the series), on the other hand, is treated like a king and allowed to get away with pretty much anything (until his carnal misdeeds get leaked to the New York Times, that is!).
  • Missing Mom: Hannah's mother died when Hannah was ten.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Bradley has one after revealing- on live TV and on her first day- that she had an abortion when she was fifteen. Her face clearly shows that she's regretting what she had just said, despite continuing and throwing the station into disarray.
    • Alex also has one after the above incident, regretting hiring Bradley as co-anchor.
    • Mitch, of all people, has a minor one in the season one finale. He is clearly horrified when Chip informs him that Hannah fatally overdosed - and seems to finally at least start to grasp that his actions were not harmless.
  • Nausea Fuel: Bradley's interview with Mitch accuser Ashley (particularly the unscripted portion!) is clearly this for Hannah. Several episodes later, we learn that this is because she herself was one of Mitch's victims, having been raped by him in his hotel room when they were covering the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting. invoked
  • Never My Fault: Like many sexual predators, Mitch does his best to blame his behavior on everyone (including UBA and his victims) but himself (he even has the audacity to claim that the sex he had with Hannah was not only consensual, but that she used him to get a promotion.). The scariest part of all this is that it quickly becomes clear he genuinely doesn't believe he's done anything wrong. It finally comes crashing down when Hannah fatally overdoses when those feelings are dredged back up, leaving him with a horrified Thousand-Yard Stare as he can no longer lie to himself about his actions. And in season 2 this becomes a subverted trope when Mitch finally does start owning up to and expressing remorse for his behavior.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the season 1 finale, Bradley interviews Hannah for her, Chip and Cory's plot to expose the corrupt and misogynist CEO of UBA. Her reliving the traumatic event of Mitch raping her ends up driving her to fatally overdose with pills .
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Though the series was reportedly in development before the real life sexual misconduct scandals that resulted in the firings of Matt Lauer from Today and Charlie Rose from CBS This Morning, it's hard to ignore the parallels, although Mitch Kessler is presented much more sympathetically than either of his counterparts. Two especially obvious references to Lauer are Mitch's desk having a button that closes and locks his door and Mitch's rape of a subordinate in a hotel room while covering a major news event.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Alex when she learns that her best friend and co-host of 15 years has just been fired amid sexual misconduct allegations and it's up to her to break the news to the nation.
    • Pretty much everyone at UBA whenever Bradley goes off script.
    • Poor Chip seems to be a magnet for these sorts of situations.
    • Mitch when he pitches to Dick they do interviews with past victims to prove they're not so bad. It falls apart when Dick starts spouting bits of sleeping with underage women and clearly ready to blame them for the accusations. It's when Dick suggests they get Bill Cosby to take part that Mitch realizes this is a very bad idea.
    • Alex when Bradley informs her that she intends to interview Mitch on TMS.
    • Fred when Alex and Bradley hijack TMS and expose him and UBA at the end of the season one finale.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Mitch's full first name, Mitchell, is only mentioned once or twice.
  • Pet the Dog: In perhaps one of the most literal examples of this Trope, Mitch is seen cuddling with his dog Fido a few times.
  • Post-Stress Overeating: This is Chip's go-to method for easing the stress that comes with being the executive producer of a wildly popular morning news show that is now caught up in a major scandal.
  • Pregnancy Scare: Played with in "La Amara Vita". While visiting Mitch in Italy, Alex confesses that she thought she was pregnant after they slept together for the first time. Unlike most examples of this trope, however, she actually wanted to keep the baby and her anxiety was over how she could do so without causing a major scandal (as she and Mitch were both married at the time). It turned out she was just really late, but she grieved it all the same.
  • Product Placement: Unsurprisingly everyone has the latest Apple everything - from phones to watches to even the Apple News app.
  • Quirky Curls: Paola is a very energetic free spirit with Cloud Cuckoo Lander tendencies... and a head full of reddish blonde curls.
  • Rape Leads to Insanity: A realistic example. After being raped by Mitch, Hannah spirals into drug use and alcoholism to cope, and it ultimately leads to what is either her suicide or accidental overdose.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Season 2 integrates true events from 2020, particularly how the Covid-19 pandemic shifted so many things (including the show's production).
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Alex delivers a scathing one to her daughter Lizzy.
    • Several people give one to Mitch, including Alex, Chip, and Hannah.
    • Mitch also gives one of his own - to all of his former colleagues when they refuse to back him up.
    • In season 2, a random college-aged girl at a Gelataria gives one to Mitch... And then Paola gives one to her.
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: In-universe example. Mitch is fired from The Morning Show after being accused of sexual misconduct.
  • Safe Word: Claire and Yanko's is "climate change".
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!:
    • Mitch's wife Paige more or less looked the other way when it came to his numerous affairs (though she clearly wasn't happy about them)- but when he's fired and his sexual misconduct made public, she abruptly informs him that she's taking the kids to the Hamptons and divorcing him.
    • After Alex and Bradley hijack the TMS broadcast to expose Fred and UBA at the end of the season 1 finale, everyone involved is suspended, put on leave or fired except for Alex- who quits on the spot.
    • Alex actually pulls this on UBA twice. In season 2, she agrees to moderate a debate, only to have a panic attack at the last minute and run off to Italy- without telling a soul- to see Mitch instead.
  • Serial Rapist: Mitch is heavily implied to be this (we only see one actual instance - when he rapes Hannah in his hotel room - the exact nature of the rest of his sexual misconduct is never definitively shown or stated).
  • Shoot the Television: After watching Alex announce to the nation - live on TMS - that he has been fired (along with the reason why), an enraged Mitch attempts to yank his TV off the wall - and then smashes it with a fire iron.
  • Show Within a Show: The Morning Show is a morning show.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss:
    • In "Laura", Bradley gives Laura one when she asks if Bradley was "actually vetted for this job".
    • Paola plants one on Mitch in "La Amara Vita" when he starts babbling about the news report about him targeting Black women, which he does not think he did. Initially Mitch is hesitant, but it isn't long before coitus ensues.
  • Smoking Hot Sex: Played with in "La Amara Vita". After Mitch and Paola consummate their relationship, the latter reaches for a cigarette... only to discover that she's out. Mitch then offers to go get her some more.
  • Straw Feminist: Alex's personal assistant Isabella has this vibe, with some Gen Z stereotyping as well. When Alex leaves the show and disappears to Italy without telling anyone and stops answering all attempts to communicate with her in Season 2, Chip drops by Alex's penthouse on orders from Mia to get some answers, and finds Isabella. In addition to being barely capable of having an adult conversation with Chip — being first uncooperative, then disrespectful, then silently pouting — Isabella responds to his pressing her for info with...a bizarre and totally out-of-left-field lecture about the faults of "mediocre white men." Even if you happen to agree with her assessment of Chip (and many didn't), having her rant about it in an unrelated conversation this way — combined with the fact that she works for (and ardently defends) Alex, herself a white woman who doubles as one of the most toxic characters on the entire show — makes her supposed progressivism come off as childishly immature and hypocritical, which, in a bit of comic relief, Chip actually lampshades.
    Chip: You're white. I'm— [realizes he's just wasting his time] Okay. Alright.
  • Stress Vomit:
    • In "The Pendulum Swings". Alex has an emotional breakdown over her impending divorce (and having to break the news to her daughter - whom she knows is going to blame her), which culminates in her vomiting into the toilet in her trailer. A mixture of Vomit Discretion Shot and Vomit Indiscretion Shot - the toilet obscures most of it, but we DO get a VERY brief (about two second) glimpse of Alex's stomach contents as she hurries to lean over the bowl.
    • After spending most of "Confirmations" frantically trying to track down Alex and then learning that she may have died alongside Mitch in his fatal car crash in Italy, Chip has a break down and loses his lunch on Cory's desk. Unlike in the above example with Alex, nothing is left to the imagination.
  • Take That Us: A conversation about the new UBA+ streaming service launch leads to one character complaining "who needs another streaming service, there are too many as it is!"
  • Tempting Fate:
    • The season 2 premiere is set on New Year's Eve 2019, with characters musing on how bad the year was and hoping 2020 is better...right after one brushes off a story of Chinese authorities concerned about a new respiratory illness outbreak...
    • Off that, a couple of people brush off how serious coronavirus will become with Episode 2 having the Title Drop of "It's Like The Flu."
  • Threat Backfire: A double version. Alex finally realizes Mitch was right about the network planning to replace her when she gets into Cory's face on how, if she doesn't have the veto power on any co-host, she'll leave the show. Without hesitation, Cory tells her to go ahead as they have all the power and clearly is ready to promote Bradley to replace her. Accepting an award moments later, Alex announces Bradley will be her new co-host, reasserting her power and Bradley realizing how it'll look worse to fire Alex now.
  • Throwing Out the Script: Bradley's modus operandi. She and Alex also do this in a HUGE way in the season one finale when they hijack TMS and expose the unhealthy workplace atmosphere and how UBA covered it up live on national TV.
  • Too Much Information: Most of the TMS staff are clearly horrified when Bradley goes off script and reveals, live on the air, that she had an abortion at 15. They're so frantic to shut her up that they toss to Yanko for the weather early (so early, in fact, that the poor guy was still in the make-up chair when they called him!).
  • Troubled, but Cute: Hannah. She lost her mother when she was just ten years old, she's struggling with being so far from her family and with balancing her career with her personal life - and then, to top it all off, Mitch rapes her in his hotel room. Things get so bad that she turns to drugs and alcohol to numb her pain and ultimately fatally overdoses with pills.
  • Two First Names: Bradley Jackson and Jason Craig.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Not the actual act, but the aftermath: Towards the end of "The Interview", we see that Hannah vomited on herself just before she died (with choking on said vomit almost certainly being a contributing factor in her death).
  • Wall Bang Her: Bradley and a bartender do this in "No One's Gonna Harm You, Not While I'm Around".
  • We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: Rather than going to prepared footage the broadcast goes directly to a test pattern to cut off Alex and Bradley's on air rant at the end of season one. This is probably because the staff lock the door to the control room to allow them to continue
  • We Used to Be Friends: Laura says this about her and Alex, stating that initially Alex was very warm and friendly when she first started working at the network. But when she was outed as gay, Alex went out of her way to stay away from her, at one point literally crossing the street to avoid her.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: "Lonely at the Top" gives us a look at what things were like at TMS before the shit hit the fan. Mitch celebrates his 50th birthday (and makes inappropriate sexual jokes about his female colleagues), the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting happens (and Mitch, Alex and co. are quickly dispatched to report on it), and, most disturbingly, Mitch rapes Hannah in his hotel room.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: In-universe as Season 2 has Mia brushing off making coverage of Covid a big deal, despite Daniel being stuck in a locked down China, openly warning her people have to know about this. While Mia defends it on other major news stories about, she also says no one in this busy New York City cares about a virus in China as anything that can impact their lives.