Evidently, Jennifer Aniston (Friends) won’t be the only erstwhile television star returning to the small screen courtesy of Apple. As reported by Deadline, Beautiful Boy‘s Steve Carell, who has made a huge leap from TV to feature films over the years, will join the lead cast of the untitled morning show drama in the works at Apple’s own streaming service.
Also starring Aniston as well as Hollywood superproducer Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies), the drama centers on the behind-the-scenes obstacles found in the realm of early morning television. The daily grind that “[helps] America wake up” will be hashed out in the ever-shifting media landscape. For his part, Carell will play Mitch Kessler, an anchor who could be on his way toward irrelevancy. Aniston and Witherspoon’s roles have yet to be determined.
The series takes its original concept from executive Michael Ellenberg, whose production company Media Res is spearheading the series. At one point, Jay Carson was set to pen the drama, but he has since been replaced by Kerry Ehrin (Friday Night Lights), who also acts as showrunner. Journalist Brian Stelter serves as a consultant for the series, and his non-fiction book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV also aids in padding out the series’ context. Emmy Award-winning director Mimi Leder (Shameless) will helm the show.
Judging by this hefty list of stellar collaborators — most notably, an all-female core creative crew that’s well-versed in telling affecting, relatable stories — Carell will definitely be in good company for his return to TV.
Aniston and Witherspoon have each been an asset to the small screen over the years. Friends made the 1990s and early 2000s indelibly special, capturing the everyday woes of young adults living in Manhattan. In contrast, Big Little Lies — in which Witherspoon had her premiere series regular role — is much darker fare but sits pretty as a thrilling master class in the mystery genre.
Ehrin has had a hand in writing screenplays for some of the best TV dramas herself. Friday Night Lights never fails to sucker punch me with capital-F Feelings for the good folk of the fictional Dillon, Texas. Additionally, Parenthood is as funny as it is dramatically rewarding with its engaging and sympathetic narratives.
And Leder, whose upcoming feature On the Basis of Sex already looks so promising from its trailer alone, is no stranger to bringing striking drama to life on screen either. She won her Emmy for an episode of ER, being one of only three women to take home the trophy for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. More recently, Leder worked on the US version of Shameless and The Leftovers, which are both shows that excel at rending hearts.
After staying away from the serial format for so long, Carell is more than likely to make his mark in this morning show drama nonetheless. Of course, many — myself included — love meme-ing the heck out of Michael Scott’s shenanigans on The Office. Still, in many ways, that performance actually solidly demonstrates Carell’s ability to embody a multifaceted approach to comedy.
He lends such an earnest nervousness to the incompetent but well-meaning Michael. Moreover, after getting past the rockier points of The Office‘s early days and years more learning to embrace the character’s idiosyncrasies, the emotional investment stirred up in his farewell episode “Goodbye, Michael” is absolutely well-earned. That’s all Carell and his quiet but memorable onscreen presence.
Since then, Carell has taken his brand of understated acting to the big screen. Granted, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule because he can be really absurd when he wants to; just look at the Anchorman movies and the dreadful Evan Almighty. Instead, apart from the chaotic talents displayed in Little Miss Sunshine (which came out in 2006), Carell’s feature career truly began taking off in the early 2010s.
Nope, that’s not only a reference to Despicable Me, even if that is his most recognizable voice role. Rather, Crazy Stupid Love, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and The Way, Way Back are vital additions to Carell’s filmography. These are the films that teeter between comedy and drama in just the right ways, and they rely on the innate, plentiful chemistry that he has with his fellow castmates.
In fact, I particularly remember seeing Crazy Stupid Love and feeling more than a little jilted at first that it was more of a drama than a comedy (as promised by a number of reviews I’d read). However, it is definitely the kind of movie that begs a rewatch due to how layered it is. Carell’s heartbreaking and sometimes embarrassingly goofy performance remains one of the factors that ensures I keep revisiting the movie to this day. It is compellingly empathetic.
Eventually came the era of Foxcatcher, The Big Short, and Battle of the Sexes, just to name a few noteworthy hits. Carell has reached the Hollywood big leagues and proves time and time again that he can consistently deliver highly-charged performances across various genres. Honestly, the acting truly saves Foxcatcher‘s plodding narrative, with Carell transformative (and Oscar-nominated) take on John Eleuthère du Pont being both unlikely and uncannily astonishing. The Big Short and Battle of the Sexes are much funnier portrayals in comparison, although totally tempered with a subtle bite of steely determination and magnitude anyway.
Could this morning show drama give Carell his perfect dramatic televisual counterpart to Michael Scott? Considering his staying power in the entertainment history, here’s to hoping that it happens.