BY JACKIE STRAUSE, LESLEY GOLDBERG | HollywoodReporter.Com
Troy Warren for CNT #Entertainment
The flagship Apple TV+ series, starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, is returning with Charlotte Stoudt at the helm.
The Morning Show has some news to report.
The media drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon has been renewed for a third season at Apple TV+ — with its third showrunner.
Charlotte Stoudt will take over as showrunner starting with season three. Kerry Ehrin, who developed The Morning Show and who served as showrunner on the first and second seasons, will serve as consultant on the third season while continuing to develop new series for Apple TV+ under her previously announced overall deal.
Stoudt marks The Morning Show‘s third showrunner in as many seasons. The WGA-award winner, who has previously worked on Fosse/Verdon, Homeland and House of Cards, has inked a multiple-year overall deal with Apple TV+ for scripted series. Ehrin, who replaced original showrunner Jay Carson as part of the show’s season one overhaul to include the #MeToo movement, was Apple’s first overall deal when she boarded The Morning Show as showrunner in April 2018.
The Morning Show, which is the flagship drama for the streamer, had returned with its timely 10-episode second season and a weekly rollout in September 2021, with the finale launching Nov. 19.
“It has been thrilling to watch The Morning Show go from strength to strength over the past two seasons, exploring topical storylines that have resonated with audiences around the world while also being incredibly addictive and entertaining,” said Matt Cherniss, head of programming for Apple TV+. “We’re excited to see where Charlotte takes these extraordinary characters in season three and to watch the magic that Jennifer, Reese and our awe-inspiring cast continue to bring to the captivating world of morning television.”
The Morning Show is executive produced by Michael Ellenberg through Media Res, which also serves as the studio; along with Aniston and Kristin Hahn through Echo Films; Witherspoon and Lauren Neustadter through Hello Sunshine; and Mimi Leder, who will direct all of season three. Stoudt also joins the executive producing team.
“I’m excited to be joining forces with Apple TV+ and The Morning Show,” Stoudt said in a statement Monday. “The cast, led by the phenomenal Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, are truly to die for. Kerry, Mimi and Michael, and the teams at Media Res, Hello Sunshine and Echo Films, have created an irresistible world that is equally delicious and provocative.”
Following a bidding war, Apple had landed The Morning Show in 2017 with a straight-to-series, two-season order. Aniston and Witherspoon, sources say, originally signed three-year deals to star and exec produce the drama that served as the crown jewel of Apple’s entry into scripted. The tech giant made a notable entrance into the scripted genre with the 20-episode morning show drama, paying stars Aniston and Witherspoon what The Hollywood Reporter noted at the time as upward of $1.25 million per episode, which included exec producing fees.
Both seasons of The Morning Show — following the #MeToo movement for season one and the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic for season two — were tasked with re-writing and pivoting storylines so the broadcast news drama could reflect current times. The second season picked up nine months after the first season’s cliffhanger finale — which saw Aniston and Witherspoon’s co-anchors exposing the toxicity at The Morning Show during a live broadcast — and set the show’s timeline at the end of 2019 in the lead-up to the pandemic.
The 2020-set second season orbited around the presidential election, racial reckoning and outbreak of the virus that would come to define a chaotic year for news. The hot-button season, which brought on Julianna Margulies in a key role, tackled identity as it intersects with sexuality, race and redemption — or a lack thereof, for one major character. The season tracked evolving journeys for Alex Levy (Aniston), Bradley Jackson (Witherspoon), Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell), Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup), Stella Bak (Greta Lee) and the rest of the TMS team.
The award-winning first season ended its run in December 2019 and production on season two, like all early 2020 productions, was delayed amid the pandemic. The second season released to mixed reviews, but holds an 80 percent audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Both Ehrin and Ellenberg had elaborated to THR about the timely shift and reworking that went into season two. “The pandemic had just begun, and we quickly rallied around an approach that Kerry Ehrin came up with, which was, ‘Let’s look at the months leading right up to it. What were we all so busy with that we couldn’t pay attention to the tsunami that was about to take over our lives?’” Ellenberg said ahead of the premiere. Ehrin had explained of the time period that is captured, “There was so much news in the country that was really riveting. COVID was international news; it was something that was happening somewhere else. And I think it was just this ticking bomb under the table and then it blew up.”
Karen Pittman, Desean Terry, Mark Duplass, Nestor Carbonell, Bel Powley, Janina Gavankar, Tom Irwin and Marcia Gay Harden rounded out the season two cast. Newcomers for season two also included Ruairi O’Connor, Hasan Minhaj, Holland Taylor, Tara Karsian, Valeria Golino and Will Arnett.
The second season ended in March of 2020, with the country on the cusp of lockdown in the show’s timeline. When discussing the possible projections around The Morning Show‘s return after the finale, Ehrin told THR she would be inclined to jump ahead, or even revisit the past, instead of picking up where the show left off. “I think it’s going to have been done, done, done,” Eherin said, indicating interest in the next chapter side-stepping COVID. “You could [jump into the future]. You could go backwards. It’s such an interesting little universe. You really can put it anywhere in time, and I think the challenge of the show is coming up with that big subject.”
The idea that the first two seasons could serve as bookends to two major moments in recent history also appealed to Aniston, who told THR she was still sitting with the COVID-heavy events of season two after the finale. “It’s so hard to even imagine it right now,” she said after season two about where the story could go. What would she like to happen to her character, Alex, next? “Oh, just a lot of love and fun and dancing and playing and something with a lot more levity!”
Witherspoon, who had said they were “definitely planning a season three” as season two began streaming, also imagined a post-COVID future for The Morning Show. “If #MeToo was the center of season one and season two has so many issues but really tackles the impending pandemic, I would love to see how the world realigns post-quarantine,” she told THR. “Even though that seems optimistic to say at this point, with people still dealing with the complexity of COVID and really what it’s doing to different industries. But just, how the whole world has culturally shifted in so many ways; the way we communicate and work, the way we talk to each other — there’s definitely a lot to talk about and tackle.”
As for whether there is more story to tell beyond season three, Ellenberg had told THR, “For Apple, for Reese, Jen, myself, if there are vital stories to keep telling, we’re all open to keep going. No one wants to outstay their welcome. As long as The Morning Show can continue to feel vital and relevant in the culture, it’ll keep going. But yeah, that’s a conversation with Reese, Jen and Apple will make together.”