There’s a lot that’s confusing and contradictory about The Morning Show, the supremely watchable, often frustrating flagship series of Apple TV+. This is a series that has Steve Carrell’s Mitch Kessler say (in perfect earnestness), “First they came for the rapists” to another man in the second episode, and the show has so muddied the waters when it comes to that character in particular that it’s unclear whether or not he’s joking. Here’s how our own Amy Amantagelo put it in her excellent pre-air review:
Even if this is just the way one character thinks, where there’s some sort of sliding scale of sexual aggression and misconduct, it’s an unsettling hypothesis to put forward. I honestly couldn’t tell if the show believes the way Mitch thinks is abhorrent or if it’s trying to spark some sort of conversation among viewers. “There’s nothing sexy about consent,” one of Mitch’s friends (Martin Short) says to him and Mitch is duly horrified. But he still whines, “This is Weinstein’s fault!” Carell is a great actor who can bring a lot of nuance to Mitch’s outbursts and perceived victimization, but still there’s something unsettling about the direction the show seems to be going in here.
That’s not all that’s bewildering about the series. There’s a scene where Jennifer Aniston’s Alex Levy runs into a rival morning show anchor, played by Mindy Kaling, in a bathroom, and Mindy kind of pretends to wash her hands, without soap, and then takes a paper towel out of the bathroom with her? This is a very minor example, but it haunts me. Other things I’m curious about: Marcia Gay Harden’s formal fauxhawk and what exactly her character’s job is at New York Magazine; the age of Alex’s daughter and what the hell her deal is; why they put that wig on Reese Witherspoon and why they named her character Bradley Jackson; whether or not we’re supposed to think Billy Crudup’s character is a genius; why Nestor Carbonell’s meteorologist helps Alex interview someone about the trauma caused by workplace harassment and why they don’t investigate his work relationships when he basically has an on-air anxiety attack about it. Why is it that Reese yelling at a guy about coal goes viral and Nestor’s meltdown doesn’t? Why would someone buy a cigarette from a cab driver for $20, expecting to be able to smoke that cigarette in the cab? Why does everyone have full-volume conversations about corporate machinations in public places? Why does Gugu Mbatha-Raw wear black pumps with cuffed boyfriend jeans in the office at, like, 10 p.m.? Who the hell Martin Short is supposed to be? And again, that wig. Why?
But the biggest of The Morning Show’s mysteries is this: Why, of all things, did they decide to try to dunk on Gilmore Girls? The very weird Gilmore thing is kind of the ultimate Morning Show mystery. It’s bewildering on both a superficial level and a deeper one. Why this show? Why include it at all? Is the fundamental misinterpretation of the series intentional? And most importantly, what would the Act One closer be?
First, some basics. The in-world Gilmore Girls musical is introduced in The Morning Show’s pilot, when weekend anchors Daniel (Desean Terry) and Alison (Janina Gavankar) go to see the musical for “The Twist,” which I think is a recurring segment on the show? It’s never really explained. They’re discussing Daniel’s frustration with his position on the show as they wait in a bizarrely orderly line outside the Lyceum, a Broadway theater that was recently home to the musical Be More Chill and is currently hosting a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol, slated to open November 20. We see some purplish artwork for the show, which is basically just outlines of houses? And in keeping with The Morning Show tradition of having important conversations where anybody could hear and/or stream or tweet them, they chat. It goes like this:
DANIEL: I do everything right. Everything they’ve asked me to do in the last three years. They just don’t know what to do with me. And they’re making us see this popcorn shit? Fucking Gilmore Girls: The Musical? Is the world so bereft of new ideas—
ALISON: Don’t act like you didn’t know what The Twist was gonna be. I was in that meeting too. You didn’t have a gun to your head.
DANIEL: Why did I get a Masters in journalism? What’s the point of having a PhD in political science?
ALISON: Is this what Gabe comes home to every night?
DANIEL: They’re just making me jump through hoops watching the fucking Gilmore Girls sing about how tough upper-middle class life in Connecticut is while a bunch of idiot white dudes eat expensive food on the network’s dime to discuss how to overlook me? And what the hell kinda name is Lorelai anyway?
A few brief notes:
-The whole “is the world so bereft of new ideas” thing is pretty rich, coming from a show that’s just straight-up doing “What if The Newsroom did a season about Matt Lauer getting fired?”
-Emily and Richard Gilmore are rich, Lorelai Gilmore is not because she walked away from them so she could have control over her own life and raise her daughter to do the same. This is in fact the whole premise of the series.
-Lorelai Gilmore makes more sense as a name than Bradley Jackson.
-The person in line in front of Daniel definitely live-tweeted that whole exchange.
Later, Daniel is talking with the show’s producer, Chip and/or Charlie (it varies), played by the terrific Mark Duplass. The two are discussing the likelihood that Daniel will get the job vacated by Mitch “It Was Consensual” Kessler. Chip/Charlie asks if he can give Daniel some advice, mentions that he heard Daniel bitching about a recent assignment in the hallway, and urges him to can it and just schmooze the suits. But he understands the frustration all the same: “I know how you feel about the Gilmore Girls musical being neo-pro-life rights propaganda,” Chip says, “and I get it”
Yeah, but do you get it?
The Morning Show’s assertion that Gilmore Girls is “neo-pro-life” isn’t a new one. (If you’re unfamilar with GG, very little of this will make sense, but it’s seven seasons long and I can’t recap it all for you here. Maybe start with a wiki? ) In this piece for Vox , Aja Romano wrote that “the narrative’s cheerful, almost totally uncritical sublimation of millennial women’s individual agency to the cause of more babies is utterly enraging … Stars Hollow, in this view, becomes a pro-life argument for the need to continue the legacy of Stars Hollow at any cost — even if it means dismantling the dreams of one of Stars Hollow’s finest.” And in response to an interview in which Sherman-Palladino stressed that Rory Gilmore had the right to an abortion, and may in fact choose to terminate a pregnancy, Emma Dibdin convincingly argued in Cosmopolitan that it didn’t make Gilmore pro-choice “any more than the Harry Potter series can be celebrated as LGBTQ-inclusive because JK Rowling revealed that Dumbledore was gay after the final book came out.”
But earlier in the piece, Dibdin wrote, “By saying that the show is not pro-choice, I’m not saying that it is therefore pro-life, or anything other than neutral when it comes to reproductive rights. As far as the conversation about abortion on television goes, Gilmore Girls is a non-entity.”
She’s right: Gilmore Girls is not remotely pro-choice, when the choice in question involves reproductive rights. But the only people who’d call it pro-life propaganda are people who’ve never seen actual pro-life propaganda. And while we don’t know the plot of the fictional Gilmore Girls adaptation, I doubt very much it’s centered on Rory’s pregnancy. Odds are, this musical that doesn’t exist would spring from somewhere in the show’s run, meaning the pregnancy David’s so pissed about would be Lorelai’s, and the show establishes that her parents would never have allowed their 16-year-old daughter to have an abortion. But Lorelai does make a choice: To leave home, and have (and raise) her baby on her own terms.
The pro-life thing is weird. The assumption that a Gilmore musical would be bad, and that the audience of The Morning Show would all just collectively agree that it would be bad, is weird, but it’s also just… such a strange choice. There are so many shows! Why not, I don’t know, Stranger Things? Great show, but way more likely to make a shitty musical than Gilmore Girls. Or how about The Big Bang Theory? The tagline would be “Broadway goes Bazinga,” Megan Hilty would play the Kaley Cuoco part and Jeremy Jordan would be Sheldon and probably win a Tony, it would be terrible, it would make a zillion dollars and run forever.
But hey, let’s play. Let’s assume Gilmore Girls: The Musical exists. The Netflix revival of the Amy Sherman-Palladino series, subtitled A Year In The Life,, included an episode in which the town stages Stars Hollow: The Musical,, and brought in Tony-winning composer Jeanine Tesori to write the songs. Tesori later said she’d write for a stage version of the series any day. So maybe she composed it. Maybe not. Maybe it’s like the SpongeBob musical and there are a whole bunch of different composers. Regardless, pretend it exists. Gilmore Girls is seven seasons (and a revival) long, and that is too long a story to make a reasonable musical. The way I see it, there are two options: Pick a season and adapt that, or do some sort of Ring Cycle thing and have it be 15 hours long.
If the former: Take Season 4, add in a little of Season 5, and simplify. Lorelai and Sookie open the Dragonfly. Luke gives Lorelai that loan. He realizes he’s in love with her. She’s dating Digger Styles—just imagine the villain song that guy could have. Rory is home for the summer, feeling really insecure about college and what she wants her life to be. She reconnects with Dean. Emily and Richard separate and Rory and Lorelai scheme to get them back together. The Act One break is a big musical all-skate where Lorelai and Luke have their first kiss, Rory loses her virginity to married Dean, and (and here’s the big difference) Emily and Richard see Lorelai kissing Luke and realize they still love each other while simultaneously deciding to scheme to keep them apart because he’s not good enough for her. Kirk runs naked into the audience. Act Two is foggier, but we’d get to see Emily and Rory in Europe (Rory’s big second-act opener would be called “Say goodbye to Daisy Miller”), have the big blow-up at Emily and Richard’s vow renewal, and wrap up Lorelai’s story by having her reconcile with Luke and stand up to her mother, who grudgingly gives Luke a real chance. And we get to give Rory a better ending by having her realize that she needs to know who she is and what she wants before she can really be a partner to anyone, and the musical ends with her being asked out by Logan (or any dude) and SAYING NO AND JUST DOING HER OWN THING.
If the latter: Start by writing a song about Rory seeing Dean at Doose’s Market, realize it’s bad, give up, and adapt American Vandal into a musical instead.
In closing, allow me to present a possible track list for a Gilmore Girls song cycle, the only kind of Gilmore Girls musical that’s all that feasible. It probably shouldn’t exist, but if it did, it would not be about being rich and pro-life in Connecticut. It would be a big mess. It probably wouldn’t make much sense. And somehow, I’d probably enjoy watching it all the same—kind of like The Morning Show:
1.“Stars Hollow, No Cream, No Sugar” — Lorelai, Rory, ensemble
2.“No Phones in the Diner” — Luke
3.“Town Hall Meeting #1” — Taylor, ensemble
4.“Love is a Deep-Fried Turkey” — Sookie
5.“Cop Rock Marathon” — Lorelai
6.“Hep Alien Medley” — Hep Alien
7.“Amanpour Either/Or” — Rory
8.“I Had Sex, But I Can’t Have Harvard” — Paris
9.“Town Hall Meeting #2” — Taylor, Miss Patty, Babette
10.“The Ballad of Dave Rygalski” — Lane
11.“There Is No Christopher In This Musical” — ensemble
12.“Rory’s Boyfriends, Ranked” — Lorelai, Rory, the boyfriends
13.“Where Did We Go Wrong” — Emily, Richard
14.“Town Hall Meeting #3” — Taylor and the Town Troubadour
15.“Cop Rock Marathon (reprise)” — Lorelai and Rory
16.“WHY Did You DROP Out Of YALE” — Jess Mariano
17.“Every Job I Ever Had” — Kirk (technically just “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” with the lyrics rewritten to list every Kirk job)
18.“Barack Obama/Finale” — Rory, Lorelai, ensemble
Allison Shoemaker is a TV and film critic whose work has appeared in The A.V. Club, Vulture, RogerEbert.com, and other publications. She is also the co-host of the podcasts Hall Of Faces and Podlander Drunkcast: An Outlander Podcast, the latter of which is exactly what it sounds like.
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