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'The Morning Show' review: Not quite ready for primetime

Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon in "The Morning

Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon in "The Morning Show."  Credit: Apple+TV

SERIES "The Morning Show"

WHEN|WHERE Starts streaming Friday on AppleTV+

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston), veteran co-host of "The Morning Show," wakes up early one morning to learn that her longtime on-air partner, Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell), has been canned for sexual misconduct. The network's caustic boss, Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup), and the show's spineless exec producer, Chip Black (Mark Duplass), dither over a replacement, but Levy demands co-host approval. In the midst of the chaos, hard-charging local reporter Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) arrives for a "Morning Show" package to discuss a cell phone-recorded meltdown she had that has gone viral. 

This expensive — the trade publications say around $15 million per episode — launches AppleTV+ this Friday. 

MY SAY Good? Bad? Dull? Dumb? Interesting? (Uninteresting?) We can all agree there's at least one question worth asking about Apple's inaugural Hail Mary, AKA "The Morning Show:" Is this worth five bucks a month? Add those five bucks to Disney+ arriving Nov. 12 (seven bucks), and the bucks you already may shell out for Netflix, HBO Now, Amazon Prime, Hulu, CBS All Access and whatever-other-streaming-service has you on the hook, and suddenly we're talking about a lot of bucks. 

So? 

Considering that "The Morning Show" is just one of a handful of Apple newcomers — the others intriguing too — and that only the first three episodes serve as guide, your measured answer is: Not really, or not quite yet.

In time? Maybe. "The Morning Show" needs time and will get lots of that (a total of 24 guaranteed episodes.) Otherwise, there's nothing here that demands immediate fiscal action on your part. 

The missteps are neither grievous nor glaring. Aniston and Witherspoon are gifted actors who can light up any screen, no matter the size, even iPhone size. They work for their sizable paychecks here too, although Witherspoon's work (and character) is the more memorable. Carell's first post-"Office" TV series role is a letdown but far from the letdown magnitude of "Get Smart" or "Dinner for Schmucks." His Mitch Kessler is self-pitying and pitiable bore who mopes around a darkened mansion and takes golf clubs to TV sets. He's convinced he's been wronged but doesn't have a clue what he may have done wrong himself. Other than a sharply drawn scene in the third episode alongside Martin Short — who plays an ex-producer and unregenerate pervert — Mitch is usually out of sight. That's good.

Mostly "The Morning Show" is a show in search of itself, uncertain of what to say about the #MeToo movement and workplace misconduct, or how to explore those real world parallels (Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer). This is because "The Morning Show" is often a mashup of verisimilitude with outright balderdashery. The eponymous "Morning Show" here never quite feels like a bone fide morning show but an ersatz version of one. Morning producers — or sober ones — never say "America's watching" as they do here. The two-host format has been gone for years.  

 Meanwhile, the key plot point involving Witherspoon's Jackson by the end of the second episode could not happen in real life, and never has. That's forgivable because real morning TV is far more mundane. It's a sausage factory-meets-"Groundhog's Day" enterprise where the show hits reset every morning, day after day, year after year. Real morning show producers are hardworking, and real anchors too, shackled to a mandatory addiction (coffee) and ruled by the most capricious of gods (Nielsen). Because there's no obvious story, "The Morning Show" had to make one up. A silly one.

So walk, don't rush to "The Morning Show." Give this time. There's promise. There are fine actors. There's a potentially interesting idea struggling to break out. Who knows. Maybe it will. 

Still, five bucks is five bucks.   

 BOTTOM LINE Good performances but the show behind those needs work.

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