Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Morning Show Season 1, Episode 4.
The Morning Show released its fourth episode today, and its most shocking moment was also the most enjoyable. When Reese Witherspoon’s Morning Show character Bradley Jackson reveals her teen abortion on national TV, she throws the network into a frenzy trying to control the damage — and it’s surprisingly funny to watch.
Bradley’s “slip” takes place on her first day as co-host to Jennifer Aniston’s Alex Levy, joining the news anchor on “The Morning Show,” the #1 morning show in America. The trouble begins when Bradley’s mother is asked to weigh in on live TV — after hearing what her mother has to say, Bradley grows agitated, telling Alex that the script they gave her has nothing to do with her actual childhood.
When the show turns back to the two women, Bradley — as usual — decides to take the truth into her own hands.
“I don’t want young women out there watching the show to think you have to have some perfect childhood to be successful,” she says insistently. “There were hard times, and I’ve done a lot of stupid things.” After listing a few of those things — jumping off the roof of a barn, getting caught with alcohol in high school — she drops the bomb: “Heck, I had an abortion when I was 15 years old!”
Within seconds, chaos erupts. “She did not,” producer Charlie Black (Mark Duplass) gasps. Back in his office, network executive Fred (Tom Irwin) swears wildly and screams at his assistant to call the show’s producers. “Twitter’s f—king blowing up,” another assistant announces.
Eventually, Bradley slinks out with her tail between her legs. But despite her dismay, the show makes it immediately clear that Bradley’s not the one who will pay for this confession — and that’s what makes the next five minutes so incredible to watch.
In any other set of circumstances, the story would turn ugly. Bradley would be fired by the network, receive death threats from conservative viewers, and have this incident referenced for years to come in her career. But because it was Bradley’s first day (and because the network was already reeling from its last scandal, the firing of their previous co-anchor Mitch Kessler for sexual misconduct), they can’t risk further turmoil and inconsistency.
They have to stick with Bradley. They — the network executives and producers, many of them male, and many of them vocally against Bradley having been hired — have to answer for Bradley’s confession, not Bradley herself. Instead of worrying about the bullying and shame Bradley will get for this confession, we see the panic of the network, fear of losing advertisers and alienating Middle America.
Bradley wasn’t trying to make a political statement by mentioning what happened. In her mind, it was just another moment in a list of youthful misadventures, on par with sneaking a beer into track practice or staying out too late. But with abortion being such a divisive issue in America, women often aren’t given the option of viewing their own abortion experiences this way. To speak about them at all, they’re expected to take on the entire weight of a national debate; more often, they’re expected to keep it to themselves.
So, for once, let’s watch a group of older men and morally suspect media execs pay the social ramifications of a woman’s abortion — instead of the woman herself. When advertisers pull out and protesters appear outside the Morning Show studio, it’s Fred in the corner office who’s tearing his hair out, raging about how “core shaking” Bradley’s statement was.
There’s no question the network would have fired Bradley if they could. But because they couldn’t, we watched a group of unwilling men be forced into protecting a woman who mentioned her abortion on live TV. That may never happen in real life. But it’s fun as hell to see play out on TV.