This war will be televised

This war will be televised

Review: Morning Wars
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carrell

The Me Too movement has prompted a rethink of workplace relations, challenged patriarchal structures in Hollywood and elsewhere, and prompted an international discussion about sexual harassment and norms.

Loosely inspired by real events, Morning Wars (known as The Morning Show in the US) is a exploration of the politics of sexual misconduct, set against the canvas of the hyper-competitive world of US morning TV.

What makes Morning Wars particularly stand out is that none of its characters are particularly innocent or purely guilty. The workplace and sexual politics are complicated, with each character bringing their own perspective, tarnished by their own actions, and no one makes it out blameless.

The power games played by those who benefit from the status quo are particularly interesting, and each player has their own rule set. All of this takes place in an environment where management has long been complicit in turning a blind eye to a predator, a theme that has real-life resonance in politics, media empires, and yes, churches.

Morning Wars has a truly amazing cast, each of whom bring something different from their usual roles.

Jennifer Aniston plays Alex Levy, the co-host of fictional network UBA’s The Morning Show. Levy finds herself at the centre of a power play, as her contract negotiations coincide with the downfall of her cohost Mitch Kessler, whose sexual misconduct puts the network under a cloud during an intense ratings war. Anniston’s Levy is somewhere in the middle of a nervous breakdown. And yet, she is no innocent victim or passive onlooker. Step by step, she fights against active attempts to push her out of her powerful position, navigating the network’s labyrinthine halls of power.

Reese Witherspoon portrays Bradley Jackson, a conservative-leaning journalist who becomes embroiled in a TV scandal after she gets into a confrontation with a pro-coal protester. Her sudden meteoric rise sees her become a pawn in the political machinations at work, but also carving out her own niche as a superstar.  

Steve Carrell’s portrayal of the accused Mitch Kessler demonstrates that he is capable of more than the tics and yelling that his comedy characters normally exhibit. While it would be a stretch to suggest that Mitch is a sympathetic character, he is far from one dimensional. The show views his downfall is up close and Carrell demonstrates his range with the camera in his face.  Like many predators, Kessler does not consider himself the villain of the piece, drawing on his charisma and charm in his attempts to garner sympathy. Kessler in some ways echoes real life predators such as Harvey Weinstein and, more directly, fired CBS anchor Matt Lauer, and Carrell proves himself as being capable of delivering such serious material.

In keeping with Apple’s model for their new streaming service, the first two episodes of Morning Wars are free, with the rest waiting on viewers to subscribe.

Morning Wars is streaming now on Apple TV +. You can watch the first two episodes free.

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