Is The Morning Show Based on a True Story?

“The Morning Show” is a television drama series that provides an unapologetically candid look at the modern workplace through the lens of the people who help wake America up. When Apple TV+ first launched, one of its marquee shows was undoubtedly “The Morning Show,” featuring a star-studded cast including Steve Carell, Jennifer Aniston, and Reese Witherspoon as the anchors of a popular morning talk show in trouble. It quickly gained attention not only for its star-studded cast but also for its deliberate parallels to the upheavals in real-life broadcast journalism at the time.

Over the seasons, the series has evolved, becoming less directly based on real-life events, but echoes of familiar stories still remain. This raises the question: Is “The Morning Show” based on a true story?

When the first season of “The Morning Show” debuted in 2019, it centered on a badly behaved, popular male anchor on a beloved morning show, a narrative that seemed almost ripped from the headlines. Mitch Kessler, the fictional anchor in hot water (played by Steve Carell), is at the center of a sexual misconduct scandal, including the discovery of a remote “close door” button under his office desk. It becomes evident that this plot-launching storyline is based loosely on the fall from grace of Matt Lauer, a longtime anchor of the “Today” show on NBC.

The show’s exploration of a post-Me Too news world also mirrors how many other prominent men in broadcast journalism, including Charlie Rose and Tom Brokaw, were called to account for their misdeeds. It drew on real-life news stories as well as notable nonfiction work about morning TV, including the acclaimed book “Top of the Morning” by Brian Stelter.

The second season, meanwhile, drew again on real-life events—this time, focusing on the experience of news shows attempting to continue production during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive producer Mimi Leder explained their decision to incorporate the COVID-19 pandemic into the storyline, stating, “We felt it was important to include Covid in our storytelling, being a news show. And we understood that time period—the beginning—when we were innocent, when we thought, ‘Covid is something elsewhere, it’s in Italy, it’s in China, it’s not coming here.’ We understood that because we lived through it. To do a story that was further into Covid, we felt we couldn’t really do honestly because we had no idea we would be where we are today, still living with it.”

Are “The Morning Show” Characters Based on Real People?

While “The Morning Show” draws inspiration from real-life events and broadcast journalism, its characters are primarily fictional. However, some characters bear clear resemblances to real individuals, and the show occasionally highlights certain archetypes prevalent in the industry.

Steve Carell’s character, Mitch Kessler, is the most closely related to a real person, with clear parallels to Matt Lauer’s career and downfall. Despite this, the show’s cast and crew have often insisted that Mitch is not a direct fictionalization of Lauer but rather a representation of a familiar archetype—an archetype that Lauer happens to exemplify.

Jennifer Aniston, who portrays fellow anchor Alex Levy, shared insights into her character’s inspiration. She noted that while the characters are all fictional, they highlight aspects of the archetype of a charming narcissist, which was characteristic of a generation of men who didn’t perceive such behavior as problematic. Aniston also emphasized the significance of accountability and self-awareness, particularly in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

In her research for the role, Aniston turned to broadcast legend Diane Sawyer for inspiration. She stated, “I’ve known Diane for years, and I had the joy of getting to pick her brain when I was doing research for the show. Diane’s always been so elegant and classy.” Aniston also mentioned shadowing the team at “Good Morning America,” Sawyer’s former show, to prepare for her role. The character of Alex Levy also bears some resemblance to real “Today” show anchors like Katie Couric and Savannah Guthrie.

Other characters, such as Reese Witherspoon’s Bradley Jackson, a rising star anchor, have fewer direct commonalities with real-life, recognizable news figures. As the series has progressed, it has shifted more toward telling recognizable stories that aren’t necessarily ripped from the headlines. After all, most Americans invite their favorite morning show hosts “into their homes” every day, making it no surprise that audiences are drawn to stories about them.

“The Morning Show” Spoilers

“The Morning Show” continues with the same format as the pilot, injecting a good dose of drama and character development into the show. Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon shine together, contributing to the drama’s standout quality. With an open ending and numerous unanswered questions, “The Morning Show” is in the process of settling into a consistent rhythm.

The season begins with Bradley and Cory meeting in a New York bar, where he offers her a job as a field correspondent for “The Morning Show” and surprises her by arranging a meeting with the producers. Meanwhile, Alex is taken aback when her ex-husband surprises her upon her return home in the middle of the night from her visit with Mitch. She evades his questioning and explains that she couldn’t sleep after the challenging day she had, choosing to go for a walk instead.

The following morning, as she heads to work, she confides in her assistant Greg, expressing her stress over recent events and her dissatisfaction with receiving a journalist award. She later calls her manager, Sarah, expressing concerns that she might be replaced because the network has yet to agree to her new deal. Alex insists that her new contract should include co-host approval.

Fred gathers everyone in the studio for a meeting, emphasizing the need to work together as the livelihood of the network hangs in the balance. He instructs Cory to compile a list of potential male co-hosts for Alex, suggesting that younger women will eventually replace her.

Chip discovers that YDA has booked one of Mitch’s victims, Ashley Brown, for an interview and instructs Hannah to do whatever she can to bring her back. Cory then directs Chip to meet with Bradley Jackson. Alex receives a call from Sarah, who informs her that the network is unwilling to grant her co-host approval. She discusses this with Chip and threatens not to continue with the show unless they guarantee this clause in her new contract. Standing her ground, Chip has no choice but to agree.

Bradley arrives for her meeting with Chip and presents her ideas. He informs her that she’s being interviewed for a correspondent position and, after some discussion, criticizes “The Morning Show” as stale and in need of better content. Simultaneously, Mitch meets with his business manager, who explains that the network will no longer pay him due to his violation of moral clauses—a revelation that shocks him.

Hannah decides to visit Ashley in an attempt to convince her to come on “The Morning Show” to speak out about her experience. Ashley, surprised by the invitation following her meeting with Cory, accepts and decides to stay in New York for the time being. Chip visits Mitch and advises him to stop attempting to contact reporters to tell his side of the story. Mitch, however, reveals his determination to fight back and mentions hiring a new attorney to resolve the situation. Cory also advises against this course of action, but Mitch remains resolute, desperate to be heard.

A stressed and emotional Alex arrives at the award ceremony with her daughter and ex-husband. Despite the challenging circumstances, she puts on a brave face for the cameras. Chip discusses his meeting with Bradley with Cory and expresses doubts about her suitability for the team. To everyone’s surprise, Bradley arrives shortly thereafter and decides to sit at the same table as Alex. They meet in the bathroom, where Alex realizes that Cory and Chip are keeping Bradley around to unsettle her. Alex confronts Cory and insists that if her demands are not met, she will walk away from the job.

During the award ceremony, Alex dedicates her award to the women involved and makes a bold announcement: Bradley Jackson will be her new co-host.

The second episode of “The Morning Show” ends on an intriguing note. While the outcome of Bradley becoming the co-host might be somewhat predictable, the execution is surprising. Alex is determined to fight for her position and seems to be playing the network executives at their own game. With both strong women set to headline “The Morning Show,” fiery confrontations are expected in the episodes to come.

The cast continues to exhibit good chemistry, with different character arcs developing at a steady pace. Whether “The Morning Show” will influence Apple+ to become a successful streaming platform remains to be seen, but for now, the show is gradually finding its rhythm.

“The Morning Show” Season Three Cast

The cast of “The Morning Show” season three comprises familiar faces from the previous season, including Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Billy Crudup, and Mark Duplass. However, the third season will also introduce two newcomers to the series: Jon Hamm and Nicole Beharie.

Jon Hamm will portray Paul Marks, while Nicole Beharie takes on the role of UBA’s newest anchor, Christina Hunter. Additionally, Tig Notaro will join the cast as Paul’s chief of staff, Amanda Robinson.

Mark Duplass, who is part of the returning cast, shared his experience of working with the ensemble. Despite the show’s set being filled with massive movie stars, Duplass described the atmosphere as surprisingly laid-back. He attributed this to the positive tone set by Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, describing them as good bosses. He also noted that when filming group scenes, it feels more like a party than a tense production environment.

Plot of “The Morning Show” Season Three

While the exact plot of “The Morning Show” season three remains a closely guarded secret, it will pick up where the characters left off at the end of season two. In the previous season, Alex (Jennifer Aniston) was convinced by her producing partner, Chip (Mark Duplass), to livestream her journey through a COVID-19 diagnosis and subsequent quarantine. Meanwhile, Alex’s co-anchor, Bradley (Reese Witherspoon), continued searching for her missing brother alongside network executive Cory (Billy Crudup).

According to the official synopsis provided by Apple TV, the third season will explore the uncertain future of the network, with loyalties pushed to the brink when a tech titan takes an interest in UBA. Unexpected alliances will form, private truths will be weaponized, and everyone will be forced to confront their core values, both within and outside of the newsroom.

Confirmation of “The Morning Show” Season Four

Yes, “The Morning Show” has already received an early renewal for a fourth season, even before the third season had aired. Jennifer Aniston confirmed the completion of filming for the third season on February 9, raising anticipation for what’s to come. With the show’s continued success and compelling storytelling, there’s certainly much more in store for fans of “The Morning Show.”

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Stevie Flavio
Film Writer


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