‘The Morning Show’: Newscasters can’t stay out of the headlines on Apple’s juicy 21st century soap

Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and now Jon Hamm play the supposedly smart people doing intriguingly dumb things.

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Bradley (Reese Witherspoon) is dealing with professional and personal frustrations as the new season of “The Morning Show” begins.

Bradley (Reese Witherspoon) is dealing with professional and personal frustrations as the new season of “The Morning Show” begins.

Apple TV+

The glossy and star-studded Apple TV+ hit “The Morning Show” doesn’t quite have the insider-journalism geek vibe of Aaron Sorkin’s 2010s series “The Newsroom,” nor does it match “Succession” or “Billions” in the category of Deplorable People We Love. But it’s still an eminently watchable and consistently entertaining 21st century soap opera about a bunch of great-looking people who almost always act in the best interest of …

Themselves.

This is the kind of show where reporters at a major media conglomerate keep talking about the importance of covering generationally important stories such as the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and the war in Ukraine and the racial divide in America while telling each other THEY’RE not the news, they need to COVER the news. And then another star anchor or high-priced executive does something impossibly stupid, and the people who cover the news are once again in the news, complaining about the tabloids and the paparazzi even as they behave in a manner that is sure to attract the attention of the tabloids and the paparazzi.

‘The Morning Show’ Season 3

Untitled

Premiering with two episodes Wednesday on Apple TV+. A new episode premieres each Wednesday through Nov. 8.

There are times when we want to throw a Nerf ball at the screen when someone who is smart and sophisticated and worldly and should know better does something utterly idiotic, but that’s also the fun in this kind of series, which isn’t all that different from a “Dallas” or a “Dynasty” except for the constant references to current events and of course the fact everyone is on their smart phones all the time.

Arriving nearly two years after the Season Two finale and set primarily in the spring of 2022, the third chapter of “The Morning Show” kicks off in darkly funny fashion with Jennifer Aniston’s Alex Levy watching a treacly video obit for, well, Alex Levy. You gotta be prepared in the news game! (Note: This is an accurate slice of newsroom life. News organizations routinely compile obit information in advance.)

Jon Hamm joins the “Morning Show” cast as a billionaire plotting to take over UBA.

Jon Hamm joins the “Morning Show” cast as a billionaire plotting to take over UBA.

Apple TV+

“I look too perky, don’t you think I look too perky?” says Alex. “Like, ‘Oh my God, she’s dead!’ “ In Alex’s situation, the obit is a “just in case” precaution because she’s days away from going up in a sub-orbital rocket built by the self-aggrandizing, beyond-arrogant, billionaire tech titan Paul Marks, who is played by the always formidable Jon Hamm, and yes, Paul Marks is a lot like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, except he looks like Jon Hamm.

Alex believes Marks has invited her along on the stunt to gain favorable publicity and secure zillions of dollars in contracts with NASA; what she doesn’t yet know is Billy Crudup’s ever-conniving CEO Cory Ellison has been secretly plotting with Marks for Marks to take over his financially ailing legacy media company UBA and provide a much-needed cash infusion.

We’re going to tread lightly here so as not to spoil any of the myriad of juicy twists and turns that transpire in Season Three, but suffice to say there’s much exploration of gender politics and journalistic ethics and the constant battle to balance a personal and professional life — and the tough, life-changing decisions one must make when those two worlds collide, and they’re forever colliding on “The Morning Show.” (Some of these folks really need to consider dating apps that take them out of workplace romances.)

Reese Witherspoon’s reporter-anchor Bradley Jackson is frustrated by traditional news constraints and budgetary concerns that impact her coverage, and she’s also dealing with personal issues involving her family. The luminous and wonderfully talented Nicole Beharie joins Season Three as Christina Hunter, an Olympic gold medalist and rising star at UBA who has a huge social media following and, like just about every other on-air personality at the network, finds herself making news and creating controversy, which can lead to a ratings spike but also raises questions about journalistic integrity and all that stuff.

New on “The Morning Show” is Nicole Beharie as a rising star with an Olympian past.

New on “The Morning Show” is Nicole Beharie as a rising star with an Olympian past.

Apple TV+

Also joining the cast in recurring roles are Tig Notaro as Marks’ pitbull chief of staff/confidante, Stephen Fry as a blowhard Brit UBA board member and Natalie Morales as a former employee at Marks’ company.

Intriguing returning characters including Yanko Flores (Nestor Carbonell), Chip Black (Mark Duplass), Mia Jordan (Karen Pittman) and Laura Peterson (Julianna Marguiles) all get their showcase moments, in particular Laura, who is at a rival network but finds herself smack dab in the middle of the ongoing drama at UBA.

Even when developments are dripping in melodrama, the first-rate cast is uniformly excellent — Crudup is a standout among standouts, delivering some of the best work of his career — and the screaming confrontations and tear-filled revelations are offset by some sly humor, as when one character makes an entrance that pays homage to John Travolta’s strut in “Saturday Night Fever.” We’re already in line for a Season Four of “The Morning Show,” which is a more reliable performer than any of the shows within the show on “The Morning Show

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