As the first episode of The Morning Show’s second season draws to a close, our characters are in crisis. Cory (Billy Crudup) has just found out that UBA is facing a wrongful death suit following Hannah’s suicide, while Bradley (Reece Witherspoon) is facing the return of Alex (Jennifer Anniston) to the titular morning show.
Yet as our characters stand on the cusp of 2020, they’re unaware of the unprecedented storm on the horizon. As cheers ring out as the ball comes down in Times Square, a single cough cuts through the noisy crowds – an ominous rattle that signals the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in America.
“[The cough] was Kerry Ehrin’s idea,” Mimi Leder, executive producer on The Morning Show, tells us. “It was nice, and it was written in the script – it seems really simple, but it was kind of hard to stage.” Like most people around the world, Leder’s last 18 months have been defined by Covid-19. You see, Leder and The Morning Show team had already been filming the first version of their second season for 13 days when the pandemic forced production to shut down.
“The world was changing under our feet,” Leder explains, and rather than resting on their laurels, The Morning Show team decided to do the unthinkable and toss out their scripts. Instead, they started again with a storyline ripped from the headlines. They were going to tackle the pandemic in their second season.
“We felt that we had to stop and reassess,” says Leder, when asked about the decision to throw away the initial season. “You know, the first season dealt with the #MeToo movement, and its repercussions, turning over the rocks, and seeing all the worms, and you know, the second season deals with identity.”
The Morning Show: Best TV series
The Morning Show team then used the looming pandemic as a springboard to deal with all sorts of different identities, or as Leder puts it: “We ask questions about cancel culture, sexuality and race. You know, and, and all with the storm that we know is heading our way.”
Touching on where the idea to cover the theme of identity came from, Leder feels that in many ways, Coivd-19 and resulting global lockdowns made a lot of us more introspective than we were before. “I think the pandemic pushed us in that direction,” she explained. “To really explore who we are, what we want, what we need, you know, it, you know, self-discovery, certainly for all of our characters.”
Like its first season, and its nuanced take on the #MeToo movement, The Morning Show’s second outing doesn’t quite tackle the pandemic in the way you’d expect. While it’s bubbling away under the surface throughout, none of our characters seem that bothered about it. Instead, they’re busy worrying about their own lives.
“We wanted [the characters] to mirror how we had reacted to it,” Mimi explains. “You know, when we first hear the word, social distancing, you know, Bradley makes a joke about, ‘well, my family’s been practising that forever,’ we wanted to have our characters behave as we did.
Apple TV Plus: Best streaming services
Capturing that slightly glib reaction to the pandemic was important to The Morning Show team. As much as we might like to pretend that initial warnings about the pandemic were met with the gravest of concern, many of us, this writer included, were remarkably relaxed about the whole thing, unaware that the world was going to change forever.
“It’s very important for us to, you know, tell the truth about how we felt the world was,” Leder explains. “It’s important for us to reflect the world we’re living in, even though we are looking back at the beginning of when the world changed.” Indeed, while watching, it’s hard to blame our characters for their flippant reaction to the emergence of Covid-19, and I don’t think the show wants you to judge them.
Instead, the second season serves as a reminder of the world that was before the pandemic and perhaps as a warning of why it’s important not to get distracted by the news’s evolution into infotainment and focus on things that really matter.
The first episode of The Morning Show’s second season is streaming now exclusively on Apple TV Plus, with new episodes dropping weekly, every Friday through until November 19.