Season Three, which just hit the streamer, is no different, even as it scrambles for a new purpose after the death of one of its central figures—Steve Carell’s manipulative, sexually abusive anchor Mitch Kessler—in a nighttime car crash late last season. Now, “The Morning Show” has moved onto slightly fresher (well, less stale) material, though it approaches it with the same contrivance for which the show is known.
After a time skip to a post-vaccine world of 2022, “The Morning Show” sets up its newest foil in the form of Jon Hamm’s Paul Marks, a slick, eccentric billionaire who spends every waking hour working on space rockets. He’s everything Elon Musk wishes he were: handsome, charismatic, charming, actually interested in bettering the world rather than frittering his time away slowly killing a social media site. Of course, now, he’s interested in buying UBA, and the company’s slick middle manager Cory (Billy Crudup) is courting him to purchase and send him (and his pet-project streaming service) into the stratosphere. (Fittingly, they literally do that, as Marks takes him on the maiden voyage of his phallic, Blue Origin-y spaceship in the season premiere.)
The sale has seismic implications for the careers of both Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) and Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), the former of which is clamoring for a senior-level board position she’s long been denied, the latter riding high off the success of her recent graduation to the evening news slot. But Marks’ intrusion into their lives sets off a chain reaction of events that threaten to undo everything they’ve worked for—to say nothing of avoiding potential jail time.
All of this is more fodder for “The Morning Show”’s signature brand of ridiculous melodrama, one that flies in the face of good taste, good filmmaking, and any semblance of narrative sense. The trouble is in its very premise: Is a puff-piece morning show really the best venue for big speeches about speaking honesty, truth, and justice? Can the show still claim a bold truth-teller stance when it regurgitates the same points about systemic racism, vulture capitalism, and our canyon-wide social divisions three seasons in?
This manifests in both the big issues being explored—in addition to more about COVID and Black Lives Matter, we touch ever-tastelessly on the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the war in Ukraine, and the insurrection on January 6th—and how the show navigates its characters through those events.
If that wasn’t enough, “The Morning Show” throws one twist after another at its cast of bewildered characters, who respond to such crises in absolutely nonsensical ways. Take Alex, who spent the last two seasons raked over the coals for her inappropriate dynamic with Carell’s predatory Mitch, only to turn around and contemplate a similarly risky relationship with another character who holds her fate in his hands. Or Bradley, who makes baffling choices during January 6th (as we see in a mid-season flashback to deep COVID times) that alienate her from her own family and her girlfriend (Julianna Margulies, the conscience of the season). Nicole Beharie joins the cast as a former Olympian-turned-morning show host who learns through an ill-timed corporate hack early in the season that one of the senior execs called her “Aunt Jemima” in an email. (Beharie’s character later refers to the event as “Jemimagate,” a phrase she utters with the straightest of faces.)