In a scene from the third episode of "The Morning Show," Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell), a formerly beloved news anchor who's recently been fired from a morning news program following charges of sexual misconduct, is commiserating with a director, played by Martin Short, accused of more egregious transgressions, including rape.
Mitch wants to make a documentary that will "talk about the specificity of the #MeToo movement," he says, drawing a pointed distinction between the first wave of men who did things that were "really bad," and the second wave of men, like him, whose behavior was ... well, less bad.
"You are actually a predator," Mitch tells the director, "and people are going to want you to own that."
"What are you, exactly, Mitch?" he asks.
Mitch knows one thing for sure and says it: "Not you."
The scene underscores one of the most compelling -- and discomfiting -- aspects of "The Morning Show," a series with some glaring flaws that has become a critical punching bag because of its reportedly exorbitant cost and its visibility as the first big swing from the fledgling streaming service Apple TV+.
Two years after reports about Harvey Weinstein triggered a massive cultural reckoning, television shows as wide-wide-ranging as "Succession," "BoJack Horseman" and "GLOW" have incorporated #MeToo story lines into the narrative. The Showtime miniseries "The Loudest Voice" traced the rise and fall of Fox News chief Roger Ailes, portraying in detail the alleged predation that led to his ouster from the network he founded.
But "The Morning Show" is the first to focus solely on the messy here-and-now of #MeToo, diving headlong into the thorny ambiguity and not shying from the sometimes unsavory conversations going on across the culture -- often, if not always, between men.
In its attempt to take a nuanced look at a sweeping social movement, "The Morning Show" can be anything but. There are clumsy lines of dialogue about sexual agency, neo-McCarthyism and "woke Twitter" that feel like they were lifted from contrarian op-eds and forced into the mouths of fictional characters for the sake of balance and honoring "both sides."
And the show spends probably too much time on what it's like being an accused man and not what it's like being a woman. The audience is asked to sympathize with Mitch well before we know the exact nature of his wrongdoing -- is he just a cad or something worse? -- and we do, because he is played by the chronically appealing Carell.