‘Morning Glory’ at 10: A Very Different TV News Comedy
Morning Glory, which was released 10 years ago last week, was a romantic comedy set in the world of TV news. That was also the case with Broadcast News, James L. Brooks’ film from 1987 featuring a love triangle among producer Holly Hunter, reporter Albert Brooks, and anchor William Hurt.
Morning Glory, currently available to stream on Netflix, is a very different film with very different values. Directed by Roger Michell, and written by Aline Brosh McKenna, who would go on to co-create Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; Morning Glory starred Rachel McAdams as Becky, a young woman hired as a producer at a last-place network TV news show called Daybreak.
The anchor is Katie Couric-like veteran Colleen (Diane Keaton), and one of Becky’s first acts is to fire her sexual-harasser co-anchor(Ty Burrell), in a plot point that predated both the Matt Lauer scandal and the plot of the Apple show The Morning Show by several years. Becky decides to replace him with Mike (Harrison Ford), a Dan Rather-like Serious Newsman who’s seen as a has-been.
In Broadcast News, a big part of the film’s stakes were that it wasn’t merely a rivalry between two men over the love of a woman – but it was also a battle for the very soul of the news business. Brooks’ Aaron was a Serious Journalist, who had deep disdain for Hurt’s handsome but dim anchor Tom. As the film ends with the humiliation of Aaron, the elevation of Tom, and mass layoffs, the filmmakers of Broadcast News could clearly see the battle was being lost.
By the time of Morning Glory, 23 years later, the war is completely over. We see ex-nightly news anchor Mike as a hard news guy who sees the cooking, animals, and celebrity fluff of morning TV as beneath him – and the film not only sees his view as wrong, but has him learn to love the nonsense, as Daybreak‘s ratings increase on the strength of first-person roller-coaster rides and other dumb stunts.
When I first saw the film in 2010 this turn sort of outraged me. How dare this film discount the importance of hard news? But rewatching now, I sort of see the appeal. A part of that was that I had a brief stint, in the meantime, working as a producer in TV news – and that experience told me that while that experience is certainly not for me, it certainly is for some people. Unlike Becky, and everyone else I worked with in TV, it wasn’t a dream job for me, which may be while I didn’t last doing it.
The film does have a lot of charms. McAdams, then at the beginning of her star run, was just outstanding, and she and romantic co-star Patrick Wilson were cute together, even if the film goes somewhat half-hearted on the issue of young women being married to their careers. But Ford walked off with the film, clearly having a blast as a drunken relic recapturing his former glory – even if there’s no way on earth someone with his humorless, grumpy personality would ever be made the anchor of a network morning show.