'The Morning Show' Review: Jennifer Aniston Wakes Up with Jon Hamm, Who Channels Elon Musk in Best Season Yet

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The Apple TV+ series — also starring Reese Witherspoon, Greta Lee, Billy Crudup, Julianna Margulies and Mindy Kaling — returned Wednesday with the first two episodes of season 3

<p>Courtesy of Apple TV+</p> Jennifer Aniston in

The Morning Show season 3 is finally here.

The series remains Apple TV+’s flagship, an A-list vehicle headed by Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon and backed by a fabulous supporting cast (Greta Lee, Billy Crudup, Julianna Margulies and, fleetingly, a sharp wedge of cheddar named Mindy Kaling) — all of them having a swell time butting heads in a sleek, expensive production.

And you couldn’t get a timelier subject: The behind-the-scenes battles to shore up a foundering network, UBA, and squeeze every last drop of value out of its cash-cow morning program.

But the series has never seemed as cutting-edge or smart as it ought to. Say you pried open an iPhone and found that the guts consisted of springs, screws and tiny ticking discs. That’s The Morning Show.

Related: 'The Morning Show' Crew Is Ready to 'Burn It All Down' in Season 3 Trailer: 'It Is Time to Smash and Shatter'

If that hasn’t really changed with season 3 — everything ultimately swings into place with a tidy improbability — this is nonetheless the series’ best go-round yet.

For one thing, the show has disposed of Steve Carell's problematic Mitch (and that exasperating Italian woman!) and brought in Jon Hamm, sleek as a seal, as an Elon Musk-like tycoon, Paul Marks, who wouldn’t mind adding UBA to his tool box.

Hamm underplays seductively — when doesn’t he? — as the plot digs into the juicy topic of whether new tech can or should rescue “legacy” media. The endless maneuverings and counter-maneuverings to clinch the deal or scuttle it are entertaining, engrossing and brisk.

<p>Courtesy of Apple TV+</p> Jon Hamm in 'The Morning Show' season 3

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Jon Hamm in 'The Morning Show' season 3

Related: 'The Morning Show' Crew Is Looking for a 'Lifeline' in Season 3 Teaser: 'Let All the Secrets Come Out!'

They also give Crudup’s Cory Ellison and Lee’s Stella Bak, as UBS’ toughest tactical minds, ample opportunity to steal scenes. Like mice, they find entryways everywhere.

Marks is initially skeptical of the corporate value of Aniston’s superstar anchor, Alex Levy — “What is this Alex Levy magic?” he asks — but he soon feels differently. (Imagine if Musk had rebranded Twitter “XO.”)

Aniston’s performance remains casually glamorous, occasionally sinewy and from time to time biting, although she also pouts adorably, as if she were one of director Greta Gerwig’s Barbies struggling to overcome a pesky patch of cognitive dissonance. And that’s fine — this is Alex Levi, not Lydia Tár.

The one performer who’s at a disadvantage this season is the fiercely committed Witherspoon as Bradley Jackson. In a flashback episode that places Bradley in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2020 — inside the Capitol Building itself — she makes a disastrous, spur-of-the-moment decision that could end up destroying her career.

<p>apple TV+</p> Reese Witherspoon in 'The Morning Show' season 3

apple TV+

Reese Witherspoon in 'The Morning Show' season 3

Unfortunately, this ripped-from-the-headlines scenario, dramatizing a crucial moment when the tectonic plates of American politics and culture crunched against each other, is a lot less interesting than the question of whether Hamm and Aniston are going to cook at home or order in.

This tends to be a problem with The Morning Show. Its attempts to grapple with actual current events are commendable, and maybe even essential and unavoidable, but seldom satisfactory: Current events (at least the ones America is going through these days) really do require grappling — cut and thrust, argument, friction — but there’s no real debate going on on The Morning Show, just perceived media wisdom grafted onto a plot.

The season will also cover the leak of the Supreme Court papers that became the landmark 2022 decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, yet here, too, you may still be more interested in whether Hamm and Aniston are going to cook at home or just order in.

All in all, the show is closer to Carrie Bradshaw than Logan Roy: Alex, in a moment of emotional crisis, cries in a closet surrounded by so many shoes, Imelda Marcus would swoon in ecstasy.

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The Morning Show's first two episodes of season 3 are streaming now on Apple TV+. New episodes arrive on Wednesdays.

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