The sight of Apple logo on a red carpet that ran the length of Lincoln Center Plaza drove home magnitude of the moment for entertainment industry insiders at Monday night’s glitzy premiere of “The Morning Show.”
The drama series set behind the scene of a network morning news program in turmoil is leading Apple into an entirely new line of software business for the storied company that has largely made its billions on hardware. “The Morning Show” and a handful of other original series are set to launch the Apple TV Plus service on Nov. 1.
Apple brass recognized the milestone with effusive thanks to two dynamic duos who made it all possible: “Morning Show” stars and executive producers Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, and the executive leaders of Apple TV Plus, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht.
“Jennifer and Reese believed in Apple before we did anything,” Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior VP of internet software and services, told the crowd of 1,500 who packed David Geffen Hall for the premiere screening of the two-part premiere episode. Erlicht and Van Amburg “started this from scratch,” Cue added.
Erlicht relayed the story of hearing the pitch for “Morning Show” on their third day on the job as Apple employees in June 2017. He recalled a conversation with Cue about how to acquire the rights to the project that reinforced the startup nature of their effort. At the time, Erlicht and Van Amburg’s nascent division had “no employees, no business affairs, no negotiators,” Erlicht said.
After telling Cue about “Morning Show,” he approved of them making a rich offer. “Just buy it,” Cue instructed his new direct reports, Erlicht recalled. “No, really, how do we do that?” came the response. “I’ll call you back,” Cue replied.
It took another five months to close the deal. “The negotiation was not easy; nothing about this show has been what I would describe as easy, but the great ones never are,” Erlicht observed. But “The Morning Show” put Apple TV Plus in business and set an example of the caliber of work that Apple aimed to deliver. Van Amburg called it a show “with a deeper heartbeat” than a routine backstage drama. “It’s about gender politics, who we all are and who we want to be in this modern world,” he said.
“Morning Show” executive producer Michael Ellenberg quipped that the starry event marked “Apple’s bar mitzvah.” He also feted showrunner Kerry Ehrin and director Mimi Leder, who directed the two-part premiere. In agreeing to set the show at Apple, Ellenberg said the decisive factors were the prospect of being part of a historic launch and the promise that Team Apple would give them plenty of creative leash.
“You told us you would support our ambition, particularly if we were being ambitious. You told us you’d pick us up when we needed the help, stay out of the way when we were cruising and when we landed the plane. you’d be fully behind us the rest of the way home,” Ellenberg said. “You’ve come through on every promise and commitment one-thousand-fold.”
Given the subject matter of “Morning Show,” the crowd that turned out at Lincoln Center (where the red carpet was black in a very Apple-ish twist) included a number of notable TV news names, including a big contingent from ABC News (which happens to be across the street from Lincoln Center): Diane Sawyer, George Stephanopoulos, Amy Robach, Lara Spencer, Elizabeth Vargas and Ginger Zee. Also spotted were “Good Morning America” alum Joan Lunden, Gretchen Carlson, CNN’s Don Lemon and Brian Stelter (whose 2013 book “Top of the Morning” inspired “Morning Show”), Lena Waithe and CAA’s Bryan Lourd and Kevin Huvane.
(Pictured: Apple’s Zack Van Amburg, Eddy Cue, Jennifer Aniston, Tim Cook, Reese Witherspoon and Jamie Erlicht at the Lincoln Center premiere of “The Morning Show.”)