USA TODAY International Edition

Who will – and who should – win at Emmys

- Erin Jensen

With COVID- 19 production delays grounding usual heavy hitters, lesser- known series and actors may have better chances Sunday.

The dawn is breaking on a new season of Apple TV+’ s “The Morning Show,” which returns for a new season that picks up after the anchors took aim ( onair) at the network’s top brass.

The drama centers on the staff of a network news program upended by the sexual misconduct of an anchor. It premiered in 2019 and returns today ( new episodes streaming weekly).

In the final minutes of the inaugural season, veteran co- host Alex Levy ( Jennifer Aniston) and her co- anchor, Bradley Jackson ( Reese Witherspoo­n), outed UBA network President Fred Micklen ( Tom Irwin) as an enabler of the sexual misconduct by Levy’s former desk mate Mitch Kessler ( Steve Carell), seemingly a stand- in for Matt Lauer of NBC’s “Today.”

“Season 1 is more about the turmoil going on by the network that crescendos into this huge moment of change, and then where we begin at Season 2 is what happens after something that big at a workplace,” Witherspoo­n says of the next chapter.

“Everyone got fired. Everybody got a new job that didn’t get fired, and we’re navigating who’s in charge, what do I do with power, do I want power? There’s so many questions.”

Aniston says Alex is also grappling with questions after “the rose- colored glasses come off.” In the first- season finale, Alex is rocked after learning Mitch, her close friend, took advantage of a young booker on the show, who ended up overdosing after reliving the trauma. Alex ends up leaving the morning program.

“I don’t think she’s ever looked inside

and asked these questions, but I think she is finally asking the hard questions: ‘ Who am I? How did I get here?’” Aniston says.

“The job was so No. 1, and all that she cared about, that everything kind of all fell by the wayside, and she’s just left pretty much alone. And the need to be relevant and the need to stay on top was so important that she just became complicit, and she turned a blind eye to things that she should not have turned a blind eye to, because it didn’t matter.”

The trailer for the coming season shows network executive Cory Ellison ( Billy Crudup, who won an Emmy for the role) begging Alex to come back to “The Morning Show.” He pleads: “You are the only thing that can save us.” Ratings have taken a dive, and it seems viewers consider Bradley a flash in the pan.

Aniston says Alex foolishly believes “she can carry whatever wisdom she’s collected and self- awareness back into the same halls that she walked before. But there’s so many bodies still buried, and all of a sudden the walls start to creep in on her and close in on her. She’s yet again trying to just stay afloat and survive at any cost.

“Then she has a real reckoning, a real come to Jesus when some very emotional situations take place that I think finally lead her into actually truly understand­ing the core of who she is.”

Die- hard truth teller Bradley isn’t going down without a fight. She declares in this season’s trailer: “I’m not gonna get edged out.”

“My character has so much exploratio­n: who she is as a businesswo­man vs. what’s going on in her personal life,” Witherspoo­n says.

“She’s exploring a new relationsh­ip that’s really exciting to her, but then it becomes very public, and that’s really confusing.

“Then her brother, who’s struggling with addiction, comes into her work. There’s just so much complexity. It’s messy.”

The season borrows other details from real life, revisiting the early days of the COVID- 19 pandemic.

For Aniston, that mirroring of reality made more sense than trying to ignore the plague.

“Oddly, it was kind of nice to be able to do that,” she says. “I would feel even stranger to be – I don’t know – doing a Western or something and you really had to just live in an alternate universe where COVID doesn’t exist.

“In the eight months, nine months, that we were locked down, the writers were rewriting the show and watching news shows try to figure out the new norm and how they’re going to continue their broadcasti­ng and delivering the news,” Aniston says.

“So ( they were) trying to figure out how we could weave that into our show without banging people over the head with it ’ cause of course you’re like, ‘ I don’t know. How long is COVID gonna be around? Are people going to want hear about COVID?’”

 ?? APPLE TV+ ?? Jason Sudeikis in “Ted Lasso.”
APPLE TV+ Jason Sudeikis in “Ted Lasso.”
 ?? PROVIDED BY APPLE TV+ ?? Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoo­n return on “The Morning Show.”
PROVIDED BY APPLE TV+ Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoo­n return on “The Morning Show.”

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