It is by no means straightforward to be the primary, particularly when a ton of eyeballs are on you. So when Season 1 ofpremiered in November 2019 (a complete ass lifetime in the past), the Apple TV+ collection — the model new streaming platform’s flagship providing — suffered a bit from each heightened expectations in addition to a little bit of confusion as to what the present was meant to be. (In spite of everything, given the variety of one-time sitcom stars within the forged, it is easy to grasp why so many individuals assumed that the present could be, you already know, a comedy.)
However whereas vital reception firstly was a bit blended, at a sure level the season started actually cooking with gasoline, because the behind-the-scenes goings-on at a serious community morning present proved to be dense with dramatic alternatives and a few actually compelling characters. Plus, Season 1 ended with a bombshell, as Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) and Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) uncovered the unsavory conduct of UBA president Fred Micklin (Tom Irwin) — two badass ladies risking every little thing to cease the patriarchy.
So by the tip of Season 1, The Morning Present felt like a triumph due to its dedication to exploring the nuances of the post-#MeToo local weather in Hollywood and past. However Season 2, the primary episode of which is now streaming, lacks that very same power. The trigger for that is that the present is as soon as once more working exhausting to really feel actively engaged with the second we’re presently dwelling in, or, not less than, the second proper earlier than the second we’re presently dwelling in. Like, The Morning Present straight takes on the COVID-19 pandemic — the season premiere begins on the very starting of 2020 and the season ends in March 2020, and its actuality is our personal. It feels odd to difficulty a set off warning for what has been our each day lives for the final yr and a half, however if you’re searching for an escape from every little thing that is come to go because you first heard the phrase “coronavirus,” The Morning Present ain’t it.
Sadly, this narrative selection additional complicates that unique existential query of what, precisely, The Morning Present is supposed to be about. A pal of mine who just lately turned a fan of the present famous that it reminded him of an Aaron Sorkin collection however arguably higher when it comes to the way it dealt with its subject material, a comparability that very a lot works when discussing Season 1. However one high quality of Sorkin’s previous collection was the concept the present should go on, emphasis on the “should” — for the characters on Sports activities Night time and The Newsroom, their vocations are all-consuming. Whereas nobody is asking The Morning Present to be The Newsroom 2.0 (god, simply typing that gave me hives), the way in which by which so many of those characters really feel like they’re floundering in their very own lives, missing in goal, does quite a bit to compromise the present’s inherent momentum.
It is exhausting to debate the plot of Season 2 with out venturing too far into the city of Spoilerville, however the query of who’s internet hosting the titular program and what it is overlaying takes a little bit of a backseat to create space for these characters dealing with their very own private lives. What in the end appears to drive most of them is their concern of secrets and techniques being uncovered, particularly relationships which will or might not be strictly applicable, however holding beneath wraps who might have had intercourse with whom struggles to remain compelling, given the storm constructing on the horizon.
In full equity to The Morning Present, by no means earlier than in human historical past have creators tried to make tv a couple of world pandemic whereas stated world pandemic raged on; there isn’t any rulebook for the way to do that, and among the season’s greatest moments seize that chaotic uncertainty which simply so occurs to match with recollections of these first three months of 2020. That stated, the hindsight references packed into these episodes are just like the Ronald Reagan joke from Again to the Future however not humorous, particularly because the season progresses. A lot of the motion takes place in New York Metropolis, and the sound of sirens within the distance appear to develop louder with every passing episode, a sobering flashback to the horrors to come back for these characters.
Solid-wise, Aniston stays compelling whilst Alex grows increasingly more unmoored, whereas Witherspoon brings a sure diploma of snap to the proceedings however nonetheless struggles to really feel absolutely plausible within the position. (That is much less her fault and extra to do with the writing of Bradley, who has but to come back collectively as a completely realized character.) By way of the supporting forged (whereas as soon as once more avoiding spoilers), Karen Pittman (who performs Morning Present producer Mia) will get an expanded position this season and finally ends up being one of many standouts, whereas Julianna Marguiles performs a key and intriguing position as a former Morning Present host who finds herself again within the combine in surprising methods, and the implausible Greta Lee does what she at all times does and make one of the best out of what she’s given. Sadly, what she’s given is a reasonably thankless position as the brand new head of the information division, serving beneath new community president Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup). Crudup was simply one of many first season’s highlights, and he is nonetheless good right here, however his position this season finally ends up being a little bit of a cautionary story about believing an excessive amount of of your personal hype; the spontaneous power of his efficiency at occasions rings like an imitation of what got here earlier than.
There are many further actors I may point out, as a result of this present has grow to be actually sprawling in a method that detracts from its extra highly effective moments; have been it to get a Season 3, my hope could be that it finds a solution to pare issues down to a couple core storylines. As a result of after watching Season 2, I battle to make certain what this present is about. The reply, at this level, actually is not “a morning present.”
The Morning Present premieres Friday, September 17 on Apple TV+. New episodes debut Fridays.
“I bear in mind seeing Tanya truly in an audition and going, ‘Oh no, that’s Lily.'”
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