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Television

What ‘The Morning Show’ trailer can teach us about Apple TV+

Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell in Apple TV+'s “The Morning Show”
A screenshot from YouTube of upcoming Apple TV+ drama “The Morning Show,” starring TV Jennifer Aniston, left, and Steve Carell.
(Nardine Saad / Los Angeles Times)

With its behind-the-scenes sets, earnest tone and A-list cast, the teaser trailer for “The Morning Show,” which Apple TV+ debuted on Monday, continues to build anticipation for the new subscription service’s most prominent drama — while aiming Apple’s big push into original programming squarely at a general audience.

The series, starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell as broadcast journalists who deliver the morning news, remains cloaked in the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant’s corporate mystique, much like that which shrouds a new iPhone.

But the teaser isn’t just a first look at “The Morning Show.” It also provides the first taste of Apple’s new slate since CEO Tim Cook and a cavalcade of stars unveiled Apple TV+ in March.

Apple on Monday delved into the crowded market of streaming video, announcing an ambitious service that will feature its own original series and films, as well as content from its partners.

Only glimpses of the Academy Award- and Emmy-winning actors are seen in the trailer, but their increasingly urgent voices discuss somber news events, questions about their integrity and the complex personalities they wish to convey to at-home audiences. Meanwhile, the camera slowly rolls through the show’s dressing rooms, empty hallways and production bay.

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It’s a far cry from the sitcom tradition associated with its stars. (Aniston and Witherspoon memorably teamed up on “Friends,” and Carell is best known for his goofy run on “The Office.”) Apple, a late entrant in the streaming wars, has billed the series, scheduled to debut this fall, as “a high-stakes drama that pulls back the curtain on early morning TV.”

The new teaser didn’t appear to be interested in satirizing broadcast journalism in the vein of Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky’s astringent 1976 classic, “Network,” or Will Ferrell’s beloved “Anchorman” franchise, which also featured Carell. Instead, “The Morning Show” takes a graver approach, positioning it in a long line of behind-the-scenes journalism dramas, like 1987’s “Broadcast News” and HBO’s more recent “The Newsroom,” in which reporters, anchors and producers insist on delivering news of substance rather than entertainment.

Films and TV series of the latter bent have often taken on timely, even controversial topics, though in the absence of more footage, it remains to be seen whether “The Morning Show” will address the changing news-consumption landscape, the notion of “fake news,” freedom of the press or attacks from the president and other powerful figures .

As The Times reported on the eve of the Apple TV+ launch, though, such sensitive subjects may run counter to Apple’s programming strategy. Some people familiar with the company’s new offerings say it’s being overly cautious, avoiding gratuitous violence and sex, as well as content that depicts the downside of technology. Rather than seek out boundary-pushing programs like Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why,” Cook is said to prefer material that can be shown on screens in Apple retail stores without offending customers.

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“The Morning Show” itself suffered delays in preproduction, The Times previously reported. Its showrunner was replaced over disagreements about the direction of the script, according to people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment.

The sincere, serious tone of the series’ teaser trailer fits squarely within Cook’s reportedly family-friendly approach, another indication that Apple may be as eager to compete for viewers with the broadcast TV networks as with Netflix and other streamers.

Indeed, the glitzy spring announcement of Apple TV+ felt like a cross between one of Apple’s trademark hardware launches and broadcast television’s annual upfront presentations, during which networks present their slate of fall programming to advertisers and press. (Though Cook invited a throng of Hollywood royalty, including Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams, to speak at the event, the presentation included no full-length production clips, only a sizzle reel of what’s to come from the service. If you’re hankering to see Aniston, Witherspoon and Carell in character, check out the video below.)

Apple TV+ marks the company’s most ambitious efforts to date to expand its footprint in Hollywood and enter the fiercely competitive streaming arena.

Apple is expected to spend $1 billion to $2 billion a year on its original content. The company has roughly two dozen shows in production or development, many of which were touted during the March event. The launch of Apple TV+ coincides with that of another new entrant in the streaming space: Walt Disney Co.'s Disney+, which will include Disney, Marvel, Pixar and “Star Wars” content, rolls out Nov. 12.


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