While Apple TV Plus’ marquee series “The Morning Show” is a fictional drama about morning shows boasting two of Hollywood’s biggest names, Monday night premiere’s real headliners were New York City’s real-life morning show stars.
The red carpet was an embarrassment of star riches, as news stars walked the massive award show-scale carpet at Lincoln Center alongside Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, who produce and star in Apple’s series as TV broadcasters.
Brian Stelter, whose book “Top of the Morning,” influenced the Apple series, was joined by his wife, NY1’s traffic reporter Jamie Stelter, and his CNN cohorts, including Don Lemon, Alisyn Camerota, Poppy Harlow and HLN’s Robin Meade. Fox 5 morning stars Rosanna Scotto and Lori Stokes pulled double duty, showing up both as guests and as reporters, interviewing “The Morning Show” team for “Good Day New York.”
Meanwhile, Wendy Williams had the crowd yelling louder for her than for Aniston and Witherspoon when she stepped onto the black carpet in her light pink suit and a short blonde wig. And the tip sheet (a guest list handed out to reporters on the red carpet) boasted bold-faced names such as Gayle King, Arianna Huffington, Gretchen Carlson, George Stephanopoulos, Diane Sawyer and Regis Philbin.
“It’s incredible that Apple is launching a streaming service with an ode to broadcast TV,” Stelter told Variety. “There’s something special about that — it actually speaks to the enduring power of morning television and that no matter what changes in television or in streaming, people still want to turn on the television and see someone they trust and someone that they like.”
Stelter says that when he sold the rights to his book, he never imagined it would actually get made. But when he got the call that Witherspoon had signed on, he knew it was a done deal. Stelter worked with “The Morning Show” team as a consulting producer to provide an accurate sense of the atmosphere in the world of morning news, including details such as the toll that early morning hours take on the staff. Apple’s story is fictional, but as real-life events have played out over the past two years with the Me Too movement dominating the news business, the series became all the more relevant for audiences who’ve been consumed with real scandals playing across their television screens, as the stories within news organizations have become perhaps the biggest stories to come out of the same organizations in recent years.
“There’s so much that I didn’t know, and that we didn’t know, when my book came out in 2013,” Stelter said, referring to events like Matt Lauer’s Today show firing after sexual assault complaints and Charlie Rose’s ouster from CBS after numerous sexual harassment allegations. “I’ve updated it twice with new chapters because of the new developments since.”
“Every time is perfect timing for this show,” Stelter said. “But I think Ronan Farrow’s book has drawn much-deserved attention onto the continued controversies in this space.”
Witherspoon says that while the show tackles significant cultural topics, she doesn’t think of the show as a learning lesson, but rather as an entertaining show for viewers.
“There are a lot of twists and turns, and there’s lots to talk about — ageism, sexism, racism, sexual assault,” Witherspoon told Variety. “We dive right into all of those topics, so it’ll definitely be a good conversation starter.”
Aniston says “The Morning Show” doesn’t “take any side” when it comes to addressing the Me Too movement.
“It’s pulling the curtain on it in a way where you’re watching everyone stumble through what the new normal is in a very honest and a very messy way,” Aniston said. “It allows you to watch from your perspective.”