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The True Story Behind ‘The Morning Show’, Explained

November 2, 2019
6 min read

‘The Morning Show’ is the latest offering from Apple TV+, the fledgling streaming platform, that has decided to make a huge splash with their flagship series. The drama has some big names like Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell. Reportedly, Apple has not spared any expenses, and each episode costs around $15 million. To put things into context, that is almost what the episodes in the final season of ‘Game of Thrones‘ cost. However, the new platform is getting their money’s worth, because what we have on hand is an intense series that looks at the cutthroat world of morning television, while grappling with workspace relationships in a post #MeToo era.

The cast members have really come together wonderfully and Apple TV+ has already commissioned a second season to the series. That being said, if you are actually an avid watcher of morning shows in American television, then some characters and incidents on ‘The Morning Show’ are bound to feel familiar. If you have been scratching your head, wondering whether any of what is shown on Apple’s new series is based on true facts, then look no further. We are here to tell you about the true story behind ‘The Morning Show’.

Is The Morning Show Based on a True Story?

‘The Morning Show’ is officially inspired by Brian Stelter’s book ‘Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV’. Stelter, who serves as a consulting producer on the show, was working as a media reporter for The New York Times when he came out with his book that highlights the cutthroat world of morning television. Stelter managed to capture the behind-the-scenes competition among NBC’s ‘Today Show’, ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’, and CBS’ ‘This Morning’.

This competition is felt very keenly in ‘The Morning Show’ as there is always the pressure of being the highest in terms of ratings. In fact, the news anchors whose faces America tunes into every morning, in the series, attempt to market themselves as the symbolic parents of America itself – like the First Family. While the competition plays a very important role, one must keep in mind that Stelter’s book also highlights some of the scandals that have found its way to ‘The Morning Show’.

When Stelter’s book first came out, the biggest scandal was the demotion of Ann Curry, who had a rocky short stint, appearing opposite Matt Lauer, on NBC’s show. Her teary farewell angered and shocked America, and there was an insinuation that Lauer had not been too kind to his co-host. Eventually, Savannah Guthrie took up the job and remained Matt’s co-anchor for the longest time. However, Curry’s unceremonious dismissal shows just how high the stakes are for the hosts. Thus, Levy’s animosity towards Bradley becomes more clear, because the latter is clearly gunning for her shot at Levy’s position, while the woman struggles to keep the show together without her co-host.

Speaking of Levy’s co-host, Mitch Kessler is fired by ‘The Morning Show’ over sexual misconduct allegations. This brings us to the more shocking update in Stelter’s work, which was made after Ronan Farrow’s own investigations. Matt Lauer, the longtime host of NBC’s show for almost 20 years was fired immediately after allegations of sexual misconduct were made. Several other women came forward with their accounts, while Matt never took responsibility completely.

However, ‘The Morning Show’ does not portray that. Instead, it portrays what Guthrie went through, by showing us Levy’s ordeal. Notably, Guthrie has said that the phone call she received the night before was the most shocking one in her life. She learned that she would have to announce to millions why Matt was fired. Although in real life, Guthrie was accompanied by Hoda Kotb (who would eventually become her co-host for the show), Levy breaks the news just by herself.

There are several other instances that draw from real life, like Kessler having a button under his desk that locks the door automatically. Notably, several top NBC employees have this, to prevent them from having to walk up to the door each time to lock it. That being said, one has to acknowledge that the script for ‘The Morning Show’ was already underway before Matt Lauer’s news broke. Aniston has commented on the similarities of the show, saying that it always intended to pull the curtain back on New York media and the morning talk shows. When #MeToo happened, ‘The Morning Show’ decided to incorporate some of the incidents.

Naturally, there are some eerie similarities to real-life people. For example, Cory Ellison is an executive out to sabotage Levy’s career. This is remarkably similar to the real-life practice of male executives who often unseat female journalists from the coveted jobs. In fact, Stelter’s book refers to an executive from NBC who named the operation of axing Curry as “Operation Bambi”. when he was told that removing her would be akin to killing Bambi. Obviously, the executive has denied the accusation.

However, what we have in ‘The Morning Show’ is a peek behind what goes on in media companies, and how the cutthroat competition can bring out the worst in us. Though it is a fictionalized version of events, the series has smartly drawn parallels to real-life incidents and characters, so that the audiences never forget that the series is ultimately grounded in fact, serving to be informative and entertaining at the same time.

The Morning Show Cast: Who Plays Who?

Speaking of the characters, you must be interested in knowing if they bear resemblances to real-life counterparts. First off, we have Aniston in the role of Alex Levy. Now, Levy is a composite of characters. She is part Ann Curry, whose job is threatened by a newcomer. However, Levy, who is shown to have had the job for almost 15 years, is more like Guthrie, Lauer’s co-host. The way Levy breaks the news of her co-host’s firing and deals with the aftermath is very reminiscent of Guthrie’s own resilience. That being said, Aniston herself has mentioned Diane Sawyer and other ABC journalists as being the inspiration behind her character.

Witherspoon’s Bradley is a completely fictional character, who has been plucked from a smaller television station after a video of her shouting during a reporting, goes viral. However, the animosity that Alex and Bradley share is very real, and can be seen in the cutthroat world of morning television, where the slightest flaw in appearance or mannerism can lead to a demotion from the coveted spot.

Carell’s Mitch Kessler is closest in resemblance to Matt Lauer, and many have noted that there are some uncanny similarities. However, Aniston maintains that Kessler is based on a lot of people, and not just Matt. She has said that Kessler serves as a sort of archetype for men like Matt.

It is evident how ‘The Morning Show’ has infused fictional characters with degrees of realism, based on real-life counterparts, to make them more relatable. This has heightened the performances and makes ‘The Morning Show’ an even more enjoyable watch.

Read More: All Upcoming Jennifer Aniston Movies and Shows

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