Apple TV’s “The Morning Show” has brought a lot of drama to viewers over the past three seasons. There was the male anchor, Mitch Kessler, (Steve Carell) who was a sexual predator while sleeping with his co-anchor Alex Levy (Jennifer Anniston). A reporter in a dead-end job from West Virginia, Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) suddenly was vaulted to fame as Alex’s co-anchor on the country’s top morning show on the UBA network when Kessler, living in exile, died.
Later, Levy went through Covid live, on air, and became a bigger star. There was corporate intrigue, with the head of the network pushed out by the scheming Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup). Bradley hooked up with Laura Peterson (Julianne Margulies), the top morning anchor on the competitor network, NBN. A rocket-building billionaire, Paul Marks (Jon Hamm) wanted to take over UBA with Alex and sell it off but was thwarted when Alex proposed a merger between UBA and NBN.
Caught up? Now we’re ready for Season 4, when the conniving will get crazier, the backstabbing more brutal and the philandering more fabulous. That’s right, the networks have to come to Washington to get the merger approved.
While the other characters will have their story lines this season, the show will introduce new characters, revolving around the lobbyists for UBA and NBN, who happen to have rivals until now. (Casting suggestion: Melanie Scrofano for the UBA role and Aja Naomi King for NBN.) As you might imagine, rivalries ensue, mirroring those in the C-suites between Cory and Elena.
As the season begins Cory and Elena are jockeying over who will run the combined network. They interrupt their bickering to hear a presentation from the general counsels from each network who outline the steps needed to finish the deal.
Cory is aghast as the lawyers run through the steps. You will need approval from the Department of Justice. You need license transfers for their TV stations from the Federal Communications Commission. There will undoubtedly be hearings before the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, or both.
“Who do we have to pay off or meet with to get this deal done,” Cory asks. “The President? The Attorney General?” The lobbyist, Carol Elson, explains that you have to burrow deeper into the bureaucracy, to the assistant attorney general (AAG) for antitrust.
“What the hell?” Cory explodes, as Elena sits there and nods. “What’s this going to cost me?” He turns to Alex with a questioning look. She shrugs and looks away. Cory is upset his future is dependent on some (to him) nameless bureaucrat. He gives his lobbyist her marching orders: “Get it done.” Elena nods at her lobbyist as well. The lobbyist notes they only have two others in DC and may need to hire some outside firms to help out. Cory sighs and shoos them out.
The lobbyists meet with the AAG Theodore Robins (Matthew Rhys), and it doesn’t go well. He’s not impressed and cut them off at 15 minutes, telling them his career analysts will make the call. The lobbyists decide to call in Cory and Elena to meet with him. That meeting doesn’t go well, either. The AAG tells them flat out that he’s not a fan of mergers. Look what happened with Warner Brothers, he says. They got sold to AT&T, which then laid of thousands and put the company in the hands of a bunch of clueless telecom types. That deal failed, so AT&T sold out to Discovery, saddling the new company with $50 billion in debt, more layoffs and the company is being run by clueless reality TV types.
Still, the lobbyists and execs carry on, starting meetings on the Hill to persuade key members of Congress to go along. Then, out of the blue, commercials start appearing on programs and online across the country. Some new entity, Citizens for Quality Broadcasting, is spending millions to blast the deal as “bad for you and bad for TV.” Public interest groups, suddenly flush with money, do studies and hold news conferences to condemn the deal. Hearings are held, and they turn ugly quickly as senators mimic the talking points from the commercials.
UBA lobbyist Elson finds out that one Senator (Tom Welling) holds the key to the deal, a committee chairman who is from West Virginia who is flat-out against it. As a last gasp, Alex travels to West Virginia, to meet Bradley Jackson, who has been in journalistic exile since the end of season 3. She is free because her brother Dan cut a deal with the FBI: no jail time for Bradley and he would identify other January 6 rioters.
Bradley is recording a podcast when Alex drops by. They discuss and Bradley agrees to help. She went to high school with the senator’s daughter.
She makes the call and persuades the senator to go along. The senator calls Robins on Robins’ personal cell and tell him: Approve the deal. Robins assents.
In the last scene, when UBA and NBN are taking a victory lap, we see who has been funding the astroturf group: Paul Marx, the billionaire from Season 3. He tells Amanda Robinson (Tig Nataro), his chief of staff, “I don’t care how much more it costs. I want that deal dead.”