Here’s Why The Morning Show Premiere Episodes Need Their Most Controversial Scene

Photo: Courtesy of Apple TV+.
“I am as innocent as any straight, middle-aged man there is. The only problem is, that seems to be illegal these days,” disgraced morning talk show host Mitchel Kessler (Steve Carrell) says about 40 minutes into The Morning Show’s second episode, “A Seat at the Table.”
It’s a line that feels designed to make Twitter’s metaphorical head explode. But while Mitch’s oblivious words, spoken mere hours after he is felled by multiple credible accusations of workplace sexual harassment and coercion, are bad enough, he makes the entire infuriating situation worse, adding: “First they came for the rapists. And I did not speak because I am not a rapist…” 
Yes. Mitch turns Martin Niemöller’s famous words about Germany's slide into Nazism — and the resulting Holocaust — into a defense to sexual predators and professional sex pests. It’s enough to make you want to throw your television screen into a fire, particularly since Apple TV+'s The Morning Show centers around two complicated women taking their power in the vacuum of a #MeToo crisis
The women behind The Morning Show want you to know that horror you're feeling was the goal all along. 
“It’s the scene where the Mitch character gets to say what he’s thinking — what he’s really thinking — for the first time,” creator Kerry Ehrin tells Refinery29 in a West Hollywood hotel. “Those are conversations that happen behind closed doors that I’ve overheard … That scene for Mitch is about how he’s creating his own defense in his head.” 
For Ehrin, The Morning Show is, at its heart, about “how people lie to themselves.” Here, Mitch is delusional in regards to his own culpability. He's speaking to Chip Black (Mark Duplass), who only helps him further the escapism. As Mitch complains, Chip jumps in, telling his former colleague, “The whole #MeToo movement is probably an overcorrection for centuries of bad behavior that more enlightened men like you and me had nothing to do with.” While it may be enraging to hear how both of these men have thrown themselves into the depths of self-deception, Ehrin argues that people need to understand what’s really being whispered in secret. 
“Education is power,” she says. “So isn’t it better to know that than to not?” 
Ehrin’s collaborator, Morning Show director Mimi Leder, agrees that the moment “really does have a power.” 
“It’s shocking to hear men talk that way. It is,” Leder gravely says later from a different spot in the hotel. “Because you don’t want to believe those discussions are happening. It’s upsetting and it’s eye opening to know that point of view is out there and responsibility is not taken.” 
Despite the dark subject matter, Leder enjoyed working through the polarizing “Seat” material with Carrell. “We tried many different incarnations of how we would approach that scene with Steven’s character. With anger. With stillness. We also did it kind of wild and woolly. But he’s tight [in the final cut],” she explains. “You could go way over the top. It’s ridiculous. But the reason it’s so effective is because it’s so real in the behavior.” 
That's why Leder admits she “feels” for Mitch’s character. A lot of those emotions stem from Mitch’s premiere episode scene, when he is unable to even make himself coffee. Like Mitch’s doorstep “Seat at the Table” meeting with Chip, his late-night breakdown sheds an empathetic light on The Morning Show’s disgraced anchor. 
“The coffee scene with Steve was so heartbreaking and beautiful,” Leder says. “We talked about, ‘You can’t make a cup of coffee. You can’t do anything. You’re helpless.’ It was about losing everything … [It’s] about the price you have to pay for the things that you do — that there are consequences to your actions.” 
Still, Kerry Ehrin swears The Morning Show doesn’t want you to like Mitch. “I don’t feel that it is particularly saying he’s a good guy,” the writer says, institing he seems “pretty bad from the beginning.” Instead, Ehrin believes these early scenes highlight how a creep like Mitch can hold onto their titular seat at the table for so long. 
“The truth is, a lot of these guys get this kind of power because they’re charismatic,” Ehrin says. “You want to acknowledge that’s part of it because it’s like a screen that can hide what they’re doing.”

More from TV

R29 Original Series