The new AppleTV+ series, The Morning Show, follows the free fall of a national morning news show, a la Good Morning America or Today, in the wake of a major scandal.
In it, Steve Carell plays Mitch Kessler, the titular morning show’s co-host opposite Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston), who is fired suddenly after career-ending sexual misconduct allegations come out against him. Realistically, looking at the media world following the explosion of the #MeToo movement, Morning Show writer and showrunner Kerry Ehrin has endless source material to pull from. But that hasn't stopped many people from assuming Kessler is based on one particular person.
When news and previews of The Morning Show were first released, the media and viewers couldn’t help but notice that the plot mirrored Matt Lauer’s fall out from The Today Show after he was accused of raping Brooke Nevils. (Lauer maintains that he is innocent of these claims.) It makes sense that people might make that jump: Lauer is a news anchor who co-hosted a national morning show for many years. He was fired for sexual misconduct just like Carell’s character.
However, Carell and his cast members, including Jennifer Aniston, deny that Kessler was based solely on Lauer.
“It’s a lot of people,” Aniston said on The Howard Stern Show. “He is the archetype for those, unfortunately many men who were — it was more than just Matt.” In an interview with Yahoo! Entertainment, Carell said he took a lot of his inspiration directly from what was written in the script. “It was an amalgam of people,” he added.
Kessler is an all-too-familiar archetype now thanks to the #MeToo movement and countless people coming forward and exposing abuses of power and influence in all industries, but especially the entertainment and media industries. The mere mention of sexual misconduct and a powerful man in media evokes a clear image in the minds of anyone who has been following the news the past couple years. He represents many disgraced men in both industries.
While Carell’s character might not be based on any one person, the show does promise a very realistic rendition of the TV news world. “In The Morning Show, we pull back the curtain of power dynamics between men and women in the high stakes world of morning news shows,” said Reese Witherspoon, who stars in and executive produces the drama, at an Apple event when the series was first announced. “It’s a real insider’s view of the people who help America wake up every day.”