'The Morning Show': The True Stories Behind the Apple TV+ Series

The Morning Show is the timely newsroom drama that is among the nine projects that launched Apple TV+ on November 1. The Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon-starring drama is based on a non-fiction book, but the stars have played down the similarity between various plot points and the real life events around, for example, Matt Lauer and Ann Curry.

Speaking on The Howard Stern Show, Aniston had to repeatedly deny that The Morning Show, which sees its male host (played by Steve Carell) fired after sexual allegations against him surfaced, was in any way based on what happened to Lauer, who left Today in November 2017 after being accused of sexual harassment.

"It's a lot of people," Aniston told Stern. "He's the archetype for those many men...it was more than just Matt." When Stern then noted that Carell even shares a likeness with the former Today host, she added: "There is an uncanny resemblance, but it's not [based on him.]"

Though Aniston denied that the story was based on him, reviewers have noticed a number of parallels between Lauer's exit from Today and the fate of Carell's character Mitch Kessler. Though The Times noted that scripts were begun before the allegations came out, they also note that: "Watch the moment the sacking of Lauer was announced on Today, and you'll see her attempt to hold things together is almost a shot-by-shot replay of the way Lauer's co-host, Savannah Guthrie, handled that news."

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Reese Witherspoon on "The Morning Show" on Apple TV . Apple

Guthrie is among the many female news hosts that the show takes inspiration from. The series is based on the book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV by Brian Stelter, which focuses for a large part on the Today tenures of Ann Curry and Meredith Viera.

In an extract of that book, published by The New York Times, we get a glimpse of the world that The Morning Show portrays: "There was no shortage of squabbling among the hosts over airtime, who got to interview the president, say, or who had to do the talking-animal segment. The key, of course, was preventing viewers from getting even the faintest whiff of the cutthroat attitudes lurking off camera. After all, morning TV, unlike the news or late night, is a team sport in which all the players' fates are intertwined. And more than any other show, Today had sold itself as a family — "America's First Family.""

Later in the extract, Stelter writes of Today: "The show accomplished these seamless transitions largely by grooming potential successors on the air." In the book, the author is talking about transitions between Viera and Curry, and then Curry and Guthrie, but this is exactly the situation that Aniston's character Alex Levy faces in The Morning Show as the bosses bring on Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) as a reporter with an eye on having her replace Levy at some point.

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Jennifer Aniston denied on "The Howard Stern Show" that "The Morning Show" was partly based on what happened to Matt Lauer. Getty

Though there are plenty of parallels with Today (Carell's character, for example, has a button under his desk that closes the door similar to that Lauer was reported to have), the show also takes inspiration from a number of other newsrooms.

For example, Aniston told People that she took inspiration from Diane Sawyer and also shadowed the team of Good Morning America. She said: "I've known Diane for years, and I had the joy of getting to pick her brain when I was doing research for the show." She added to The New York Times that she researched "everything from her clothing choices to her caffeine habits, which involved toggling between Coca-Cola, Red Bull and coffee."

However, though it does feature a number of real-life parallels, the story the show is telling is a fictional one, set on a fictional news program but inspired by true events. Aniston said that, "we sold it in the summer, and then Harvey [Weinstein] happened in the fall... Reese and I were like... 'The show is writing itself.' It was as if the universe were begging for this patriarchal society to be exposed. It's crazy."

The Morning Show is streaming now on Apple TV+

'The Morning Show': The True Stories Behind the Apple TV+ Series | Culture