It’s a new day on Apple TV+’s The Morning Show, and it hits the ground running, ready for more drama and intrigue at a fictitious network in the wake of scandal.
The season 2 premiere, “My Least Favorite Year,” opens moments after the season 1 conclusion, in which The Morning Show was cut off live when Bradley (Reese Witherspoon) and Alex (Jennifer Aniston) went off-script to expose sexual abuse at the show’s network, UBA. Panic ensues in the studio, as social media explodes and the co-anchors wonder about their future on the air. UBA fires executive Cory (Billy Crudup, who won an Emmy for this role in 2020) for not having a handle on the rebelling talent.
The action then jumps to a montage, laid over Dean Martin’s “Return to Me”: footage of the empty streets of New York City in the early days of the pandemic. We then time jump again, three months earlier, some time after the Morning Show fallout and Cory’s firing. It’s December 31, 2019, and The Morning Show prepares its talent for a televised New Year’s Eve celebration. Alex has left the network to write a memoir to gain control over the narrative surrounding her complicity in Mitch’s (Steve Carell) misconduct scandal. Bradley now cohosts with Eric (Hasan Minhaj), a new addition to the series.
Cory is back in the picture, this time running UBA: it’s hinted that Bradley assisted in his rehiring, but otherwise, the details of his return remain to be seen. Despite Cory’s efforts to seem transparent with Bradley, he knows her ratings are low (she’s tried everything to win over the public, from dyeing her hair blonde to hosting a celebrity bowling show). A scandal with one of UBA’s primetime anchors enables the network to promote Eric. Bradley is kept in the dark about this, and lobbies Cory for the job.
The Morning Show wants to be a show that tackles media post-#MeToo, and it will certainly revisit that. It’s the show that launched AppleTV+, but hasn’t become its signature series as it seems to have hoped (does anyone think of AppleTV+ without Ted Lasso coming to mind first?). There’s still a lot to unpack from season 1, and hardly any of it has been resolved. UBA weatherman Yanko (Nestor Carbonell) isn’t over his breakup with much younger production assistant Claire (Bel Powley, who does not appear in this episode). Legal issues are on the rise for the network after the suicide of one of Mitch’s victims (seen in the season 1 finale), whom UBA tried to silence. Desean Terry’s third-hour anchor Daniel only appears briefly, but the hiring of Minhaj’s Eric suggests that Daniel’s long-overdue promotion has been denied once again.
“My Least Favorite Year” is a season premiere that knows it has a lot of threads to continue from season 1, and continues them without closing the door on them (and opening a few new doors in turn). The writing is stronger than it was last season, and the all-star cast is as present and energetic as ever. It may not be the flagship show the streaming platform wanted, but there’s promise of a sharper, tighter sophomore season here.
The Morning Show does recognize that 2020 is on the horizon, and undercuts the impact of that. The final scene drives home the point that 2020 is the year being rung in, and we, the audience, already know what happens in 2020, politically and globally. The episode didn’t need a spring 2020 montage of the empty streets of Manhattan if it was going to conclude on an ominously bright shot of the 2020 ball looming over Times Square. We know what’s ahead, because just like Daniel’s lack of a promotion and Alex’s inevitable return and all else set up here, we’ll get to that. But there are still three more months’ worth of drama at UBA to come first.
The Morning Show drops on AppleTV+ on Fridays.