This week’s edition of The Morning Show it’s all about the needle drops. We begin with “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees as Cory (Billy Crudup) launches into UBA’s big pre-show. Get it? Because the UBA is trying stay alive after a huge racism scandal rocked the media company and banished a grand old executive. After a failed deal with billionaire Paul Marks (Jon Hamm) and the huge hacking attack on the company, they’ll need a miracle to convince advertisers to come along.
As with most traditional upfronts – which, in case you didn’t know, are large gatherings of networks that introduce their new programming in order to convince advertisers to spend money on the networks – a great comedian hosts. Retta plays herself and makes the whole racism scandal (which the show now calls #JemimaGate) look like a joke. It’s not a problem! At the same time, she portrays Cory as a complete idiot.
“Some call him Captain of the Titanic, others Napoleon at Waterloo,” booms Retta, introducing the man of the hour. “I call him the man who definitely didn’t cut the brake lines in Mitch Kessler’s car.”
Remember when the late Mitch (Steve Carrell) told the whole story The Morning Show? Now he’s just a punchline.
At least part of his manipulative spirit lives on in Alex (Jennifer Aniston), who flirts with Paul in order to win him back to Team UBA and thus save the company from financial despair. Alex had promised Cory that he would convince some advertising people to donate money to the UBA. However, she didn’t make clear her plan to take Paul to Coney Island for a romantic summer date with water guns and roller coasters. This awkward date makes no sense – but hey, pretty people doing things together. I take it.
The date is much more interesting than anything Mia (Karen Pittman) is plotting about. There was a bomb attack in Mariupol and the UBA wants exclusive pictures. Mia calls a freelancer friend (with benefits?) in the area, André (Clive Standen), who agrees to shoot exclusive footage for UBA. After he submits his incredible photo, Mia refuses to show it on the news. Why? It could put Andre in danger in Ukraine. Stella (Greta Lee) overwhelms the producer and demands that she put the pictures on the news.
Apparently, The Morning Show is planning a new storyline between Mia and André, so we’ll probably find out more about them later. But in this episode, the debacle between the couple (?) feels like an extended advertisement for Apple. They communicate exclusively via FaceTime, with more focus on their high-tech Apple iPhones than their actual faces.
Stella is at her game in this episode. She meets two advertising people from a company called Sloan – you should actually remember the name of the company – for a boozy lunch at a seafood joint. Three dirty martinis in, Stella collapses. She asks the waitress to serve her water so she can keep up. The advertising people are impressed, if suspicious, that such a “petite” woman could tolerate the same amount of alcohol as her.
The advertising people agree to Stella’s deal – with a twist. (Pun intended, because this plotline needs some levity.) Stella has to convince the waitress, who is also Asian, to lick her spilled drink off the table. Then they will sign. Stella bows to her racist demands, gives a $20,000 tip and the poor waitress leans over the table, her tongue pressed against the marble top. Who are these freaks, a duo of Roman Roys?
Then we make our way to Cory’s house in the Hamptons, where dozens of ad investors cavort in its glass-to-ceiling lit interiors. Again, I don’t care about the plot, just give me pretty things to admire. Everyone is a farmer. Cory becomes angry with Bradley (Reese Witherspoon), who is too busy fooling around with his ex Laura (Julianna Margulies) to chat with the advertising people. Or perhaps the anger is more personal, romantic.
CEO Leonard (Stephen Fry) tells host Chris (Nicole Beharie) that it’s their job to convince these investors that UBA has new values after Cybil’s (Holland Taylor) Aunt Jemima’s comment. Chris bites back: Does the company really have new values? The board needs to increase the salaries of their POC employees if they really want them to play their diversity card. Leonard offers to increase Chris’ salary. Chris rejects his offer. He must improve all the salaries if he wants to use them.
Yanko (Néstor Campbell) warns Chris not to get too woke because Yanko is an idiot and always says the wrong thing. Chris shouldn’t start a mob on social media, he warns. She shouldn’t get involved in the so-called “culture wars” because at some point they will come after her. Yanko doesn’t make sense, but maybe it does if this is just foreshadowing. Chris brushes off his advice.
Former UBA president and antagonist Fred Micklen (Tom Irwin) returns, knocks down Cory’s door and says: “You’re mine, you fool!” The deal with Sloan? I told you to remember this name. Fred just bought Sloan and now has a stake in UBA. If your company exposes you as a complete villain on the national news, like UBA did to Fred, why would you ever want anything to do with them again? At this point, just go to Fox News. They would welcome Fred with open arms. But this is revenge; By investing in UBA, Cory and his company now have to answer to him, and he can make their lives difficult.
But here come our knights in shining armor, Alex and Paul, paired with our second needlepoint: “Truth Hurts” by the newly infamous Lizzo. Is this more of a foreshadowing – are Paul and/or Alex evil? Or is that a bad coincidence?
In any case, Alex manages to convince Paul to re-enter talks about buying UBA. All she had to do was twitch her eyes and tell him a sob story. If we compare these two with real people, which The Morning Show loves – see also: Matt Lauer – that would be like Katie Couric and Elon Musk becoming the rumor public.
Queue a bizarre reaction from Cory, UBA’s resident idiot: “Damn believable.”