The current affairs show drama, which refocused its first season in response to the #MeToo movement, also had to make changes in season two due to the coronavirus.
The second season of The Morning Show, the series about a talk show in the style of Good morning americaIt had been filming for six weeks in March 2020 when everything suddenly stopped.
“It was a Wednesday night and we were discussing a scene I had to shoot the next day,” recalls Jennifer Aniston, who plays one of the fictional show’s co-hosts and is also an executive producer on the series.
“We received emails saying that this great company and that other were closing. And then we found out that Tom and Rita were sick [es decir, Tom Hanks y Rita Wilson, que contrajeron la covid al principio de la pandemia]. AND, Suddenly the world fell on us”Says Aniston.
Production halted on March 11, the cast and crew dispersed, and the producers pondered how the series could move forward. And when they returned (remotely) and decided to remake the season, their challenge was how to incorporate the coronavirus into the storyline because the pandemic had just begun and no one knew how it would unfold.
This reflected, in fact, what happened during the first season, when world events – in that case, conflicts over the # MeToo movement – took over what had been the script.
The Morning Show, presented with great fanfare as the flagship show of the new streaming service Apple TV + in 2019, was loosely inspired by Brian Stelter’s nonfiction book Top of the Morning, about the relentless politics of morning TV shows. But while it initially focused mostly on infighting between Alex Levy (Aniston) and his co-host Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), it was renewed with broader ambitions that reflected the changes brought about by #MeToo.
After exposing Alex’s former co-host Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) as a serial sexual predator, the show explored the repercussions for its victims, as well as for those on the network who ignored, allowed or consented to its behavior.
The first season ended with Alex and Bradley making explosive on-air revelations about UBA’s sexually toxic work environment. The second, which premiered earlier this month, begins months later, on New Year’s Eve 2019, with Bradley assigned to broadcast the ball drop in Times Square and Alex, who has left the network, reflecting. on whether to return.
It is a moment of apparent innocence, in which the characters put aside the difficulties of 2019 and look happily towards 2020, unaware of the iceberg that lurks under the waters. “It’s a new year,” says Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup), the Machiavellian CEO of UBA (he was promoted from last season) cheerfully, as the sounds of “Auld Lang Syne” grow into an emotional montage. “Things are improving”.
Well. We have already heard mention of a “mysterious respiratory disease.” And then Cory sees a news story on the ticker: Hannah’s family, a young employee who slept with Mitch and later died of an overdose, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the chain. And then the most sinister event of all occurs, when a woman behind Cory sneezes and the episode ends with a thud.
“Are we going to ignore this?”
The confinement caused the writers of the series, led by Kerry Ehrin, to recheck everything.
“For a current affairs show that looks at the world as it is, the question was, ‘Are we going to ignore this?'” Said Michael Ellenberg, executive producer and director of Media Res, the studio behind the series. They decided that that would be impossible.
“We had to face the times, so our first conversation was how to do it. Kerry insisted that we did not want to speculate about the future: how long the pandemic would last, if it would end, what it would be like afterwards, “he added. “So we quickly settled on the idea of see the beginning of the pandemic, when things are brewing and in the meantime there are a bomb under the table ”.
The second season is set in the first three months of 2020. The virus has hit China and is slowly gaining strength to reach the rest of the world. At the same time, many of the characters face a reckoning as they struggle with their own identities and a shifting understanding of power, race, and privilege on and off the job.
Angry at being turned down to host a presidential debate, Danny (Desire Terry), a reporter for the show, demands to know what it is — to be gay? Being black? – what has hurt his career. Stella (Greta Lee), the new and forward president of the UBA news division, who is Asian-American, tortures herself with the idea that her hiring was symbolic, even while on the street she is subjected to racist insults about the coronavirus by Trump style. Yanko Flores (Néstor Carbonell), the beloved Cuban-American meteorologist, is accused of appropriating indigenous culture after using the expression “animal spirit” on the air, and is later attacked when his apology is deemed not sincere enough.
Bradley struggles with his sexuality and his relationship with his conservative and dysfunctional family. (A delightful new character, network host Laura Peterson, played by Julianna Margulies in her feline prime, figures prominently in this storyline.)
Meanwhile, Mitch, who is now persona non grata and has retired to a cavernous villa in Italy in the wake of his misfortune, debating whether he has the right to a life after being canceled. And Alex, with her marriage ending and her assumptions about the world shattered, excavates and reexamines her relationship with Mitch, a man she worked with and loved for many years.
“The first season was about the #MeToo movement and its aftermath – turning the stones around and seeing what’s underneath,” said Mimi Leder, the series’ director and executive producer. “The second season is about identity. We are asking a lot of tough questions about the culture of cancellation, sexuality, race, and other things. We are asking our characters to examine who they really are. “
At a time when it seems brave to acknowledge that not all sexual behaviors are the same, The Morning Show gets straight into the subject. Younger characters disagree with older ones, and opinions differ on how to view previously acceptable behavior that is now prohibited. Is it okay, for example, to think that there is something redeemable in Mitch?
In one especially memorable scene, Bradley scolds Maggie Brener (Marcia Gay Harden), a journalist who has written a book on UBA, on forgiveness and compassion.
“The question is how to be more gracious as human beings towards others,” Witherspoon, who is also an executive producer, said in an interview. “What about people who are truly sorry, or who have committed forgivable offenses? I don’t think that, as a society, we have reached that point ”.
The fictional changes to the show reflect actual changes in the industry, Witherspoon said. Among other things, he said, there is now mandatory training on bullying before filming, something that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.
“There is much more consideration for the emotional well-being of people,” he said. “It seems like a safer environment to create. Everything has its complexity, but I am grateful for a safer workplace. “
An emotional blow
Filming began again in the fall of 2020, before vaccines for COVID-19 were available. Some cast and crew members had moved, or didn’t feel safe working, and didn’t come back. Production was stopped several more times, not because no one got sick, but because of government restrictions. As in other series that were shot during the pandemic, the production developed rigorous protocols on testing, hygiene, protective equipment and behavior in the studio, even when the characters were not wearing a mask while filming their scenes.
According to Aniston, it was a tense time to shoot, compounded by the weight of the footage. (The season includes many dramatic confrontations, reconsiderations, reckoning, and crying.)
“As someone who usually lives with a happy step and a smile on his face, in the end I screamed, I cried and I got emotional,” she said. “It took me weeks to deflate my eyes from all the excitement.”
While this was happening, Aniston and her co-stars fromFriendsThey were filming their long-awaited, and repeatedly delayed, reunion episode. Returning, at this dire moment, to the joyous series that so defined her career was another giddy experience, Aniston said.
“We all had such a happy ignorance going to the reunion,” he said. “We were thinking, ‘What fun is this going to be, going back to Stage 24 exactly the way it was, exactly the way we left it.’ But it was an emotional blow. It turns out that time travel is not so easy ”.
When Friends It ended after a decade, in 2004, “we were all willing, eager, full of enthusiasm, looking to the future,” he continued. “But there were many things to come for everyone: hard truths, changes, losses, babies, marriages, divorces and pregnancy losses. One of the most emotional things for me was realizing that times were so much easier back then. To begin with, we did not have social networks ”.
A possible third season of The Morning ShowBut it is clear that there is still much to explore, including how the characters could overcome the traumas of 2020. Beyond the pandemic, the question remains about what happens to people caught in the jaws of public scandals.
“I hope we take a moment to pause when we are agitated, and to take each case as it comes, and to use due process,” Aniston said. “It’s too easy when, with the click of a button, someone just disappears.”
Sarah Lyall is a general issues journalist working for various sections such as Sports, Culture, Media and International. Previously, she was a correspondent in the London office and a reporter for the Culture and Underground sections. @sarahlyall