The winter portion of the biannual Television Critics Association ended Sunday, rounding up a nearly three week rollout of programming with a day devoted to streaming service Apple TV+’s new shows.
But the biggest headlines of the day will probably still go to one of its current series, the Jennifer Aniston-Reese Witherspoon broadcast journalism/#MeToo-centered drama The Morning Show. The two stars, as well as others on the panel, were asked if they knew real-life versions of some of the skeevy guys seen on the series (in particular, Billy Crudup’s character, Cory Ellison) and if co-star Carrell, who played disgraced newsman Mitch Kessler, would be back for Season 2. The answers, respectively, got a yes, but we can’t name names from the cast and producers and a “no update” from executive producer Michael Ellenberg.
And then there’s the issue of storylines and reinforcing tired tropes about women and minorities. Read more to see The Morning Show crew’s responses to this as well as news from other Apple TV+ panels.
Although The Morning Show showrunner Kerry Ehrin was absent from TCA due to illness, star/executive producer Witherspoon and others had plenty to say to defend the series that is both the streaming channel’s crown jewel and has gotten mixed reviews from the press—particularly in regards to its characters who are women of color, such as Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Hannah and spoiler her demise.
“That character was written as a character, not specified as a person of color,” said executive producer and director Mimi Leder to an assertion that this fits a specific trope of a minority dying on TV after being victimized. “So this character represented the fallout of many of these events that happened to women. So, it wasn’t—we weren’t playing it as a victim.”
Witherspoon reminded that The Morning Show also has Karen Pittman’s character Mia Jordan, who also had poor experiences with Carrell’s character.
“As we get to the end of the piece, those two women … have different life tracks and they’re about to go on a different journey,” Witherspoon said, adding that in Season 2, “while I can’t tell you what it is, Karen Pittman’s character is walking through a similar journey as Gugu walked through as a woman of color in media and how she is treated. And that was really important to us.”
As for what else is in store for Season 2?
“We have a lot to explore. It’s not just #MeToo. We explore racism, sexism, homophobia; all the things currently happening in news media,” Witherspoon told reporters. “We’re just beginning because there’s a whole new world order. It’s chaos. No one knows who is in charge. What does leadership mean at this point? And I think that’s what we’re exploring in this culture as we speak.”
Little America, the anthology series that counts Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon and Alan Yang as its executive producers and was on Paste’s list of most anticipated shows of 2020, https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2020/01/most-anticipated-series-2020.htmlwill now be able to tell more in-depth stories about people who are new to this country.
The producers insist that this show isn’t meant to be seen as particularly political, even if the Pakistan-born Nanjiani told journalists that “just by saying that immigrants are human beings with hopes, desires, likes and dislikes, in this climate, is a radical statement rather than just a very self-evident statement of fact.”
“If we’re telling a story about immigrants and we sort of make it overtly political, you’re taking the focus away from the person whose story you’re telling and you’re putting the focus on America, you’re putting the focus on … the political system or the immigration system, and we didn’t want that,” he said. “We wanted the focus to be on these people, on these stories. So obviously, like you said, because of the nature of this show, there are going to be certain people who will not watch the show and there’s really nothing we can do that. There are certain people who are going to see it as a radical political statement and there’s nothing we can do about that.”
Little America is currently streaming on Apple TV+.
Upcoming drama series Home Before Dark stars The Florida Project’s Brooklynn Prince as tween-age cub reporter who decides to investigate a cold case in her small town—one even her reporter dad wants left buried.
“We just felt really strongly that we wanted to make something that we had never actually seen before, which is a sophisticated drama that had a protagonist that was a young female at its core,” co-creator, co-showrunner and executive producer Dana Fox told journalists of the series, which is based on the life of actual kid journalist Hilde Lysiak. “I had never seen anything that treated a young female protagonist as seriously as I felt as a child.”
Jim Sturgess also stars as Matt, a fictionalized version of Hilde’s actual dad – and the closeness he has with Prince is real on and off screen (the two have secret handshakes and he carried her out of the room on his shoulders).
“We wanted Matt and Hilde to have to sort of work together to solve this crime that was ultimately going to be an emotion[al journey],” Fox said.
Home Before Dark premieres April 3. On Sunday, it received an early Season 2 renewal.
Visible: Out on Television, the upcoming documentary from director Ryan White and his fellow executive producers Wanda Sykes and Wilson Cruz promises to give an in-depth timeline of queer representation on television, be it coding (Sykes said on the panel that she believes Alice from The Brady Bunch was a lesbian) or actual out characters (see Cruz’s break-through role as Ricky on My So-Called Life).
“It was through the television that we got to tell the entire society and culture what our lives are really like,” Cruz told the audience. “And because of that honesty and that authenticity, we were able to move the needle to acceptance. And we’re seeing a lot of the results of that today.”
So why air this on a new streaming service instead of as a feature film?
“Apple gave us the real estate to tell the story in full,” White said. “For instance, The Celluloid Closet is such a huge inspiration for me as a filmmaker. But to tell that story of television I knew that television not only reflects fiction, scripted stories, but it also has always covered the real world.”
The five-part docu-series, which premieres February 14, covers topics like AIDS activist Pedro Zamora from MTV’s The Real World and Mark Segal’s “zapping” of live news shows by bombarding segments to preach about gay civil rights.
Whitney Friedlander is an entertainment journalist with, what some may argue, an unhealthy love affair with her TV. A former staff writer at both Los Angeles Times and Variety, her writing has also appeared in Cosmopolitan, Vulture, The Washington Post and others. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son and very photogenic cat.
For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.