This week, I’m serving up my takes on three completely different kinds of shows and movies. From the behind-the-scenes drama of a morning talk show scandal in “The Morning Show” on Apple Plus to the frothy and frantic funniness found in the movie “Love Wedding Repeat” and the harrowing true-story dramatization of the ATF vs. Branch Davidian cult showdown in the series “Waco” (both of which are on Netflix), once again it’s time to be thankful that there’s something for everyone streaming amid the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
An unusually strong trio of stars headlines “The Morning Show,” as Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell team up to create a thinly veiled take on the shakeup at “The Today Show” following longtime host Matt Lauer’s November 2017 resignation amid sexual harassment charges.
“Morning” puts a twist on that by creating a fast-moving series of power-grabbing twists as a star host of a same-titled show named Mitch Kessler (Carell) is fired for having multiple affairs with staffers and his co-host Alex Levy (Aniston) maneuvers to keep her own job safe while choosing Mitch’s replacement herself.
As Mitch plots how to get his legal revenge, a conservative reporter for a little-known cable network named Bradley Jackson (Witherspoon) finds herself caught in the middle of the mess. Her feisty denunciation of a man who knocked down her cameraman at a coal protest has gone viral, and the “Morning” network’s news division president (Billy Crudup) wants to make her a star since Alex’s ratings have been going down. But when Alex makes an unexpected move herself, the power moves become delicious fun.
“Morning” has stellar performances from all three stars, and fast-paced dialogue ala “The West Wing” to boot. The only downsides come from the fact that much of it takes place on a limited number of home and TV studio locations, giving the show a claustrophobic feel sometimes, and the characters are interesting but not very likable. If you’re curious about the world of big media or like workplace shows, this is for you. If you’re looking for lighter escapist fare, not so much.
The Netflix movie “Love Wedding Repeat” is the polar opposite, as it takes the funny and romantic style of great romantic comedies like “Notting Hill” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and gives them a slightly more risqué tone. Written and directed by Dean Craig, who wrote the terrific 2010 comedy “Death at a Funeral” (one of my favorites), it follows a crowded wedding between an English-speaking woman named Hayley and her Italian fiance Roberto.
Things go haywire when her previous boyfriend shows up, coked out of his mind and determined to speak up rather than hold his peace. As Hayley desperately tries to keep him away from the microphone and her new husband so that he can’t share the shocking news that the two of them hooked up again just three weeks ago, she convinces her brother to slip a sedative into her ex’s champagne.
But a bunch of young kids mess things up by changing all the place settings at the table with her ex, resulting in him being all too able to still raise hell while knocking the best man into a slurry stupor instead. Things get ever more complicated until the midway point, at which an unseen narrator who’s telling the story decides to show what would happen if the kids hadn’t screwed things up – in other words, you get two funny wedding romps in one with this movie, and a whole lot of fun in one of Netflix’s top ten programs of last week.
Finally, Netflix viewers are huge fans of crazy cult stories, as evidenced by the massive success of the documentary series “Wild Wild Country” a couple of years ago (still worth watching if you haven’t seen it). The current hot cult story on the streaming giant is “Waco,” a 2018 six-part miniseries from the little-seen Paramount Network that recounts the shocking 1993 showdown between the federal government and the Branch Davidian cult compound that is now climbing Netflix’s top ten list.
Starring Taylor Kitsch as the apocalyptic cult leader David Koresh, who ran afoul of the ATF for having a massive stockpile of weapons to go with a large number of children who drew government concern, the series is riveting from start to finish. Michael Shannon also gives another in a long career of great performances, as the lead FBI agent out to nab him before things went horribly awry in the final attempt to capture Koresh.
What makes the show particularly compelling – and to some, controversial – is the fact that it tries to show Koresh in what seems to be a sympathetic light early on, as he protests the government’s focus upon him. By the time the series depicts the final tragic showdown – a mess of gunfire and devastating explosions – it has left plenty to think about aside from the action firepower within.