Apple has forayed into original television programming, and not for the first time, with a two-season, straight-to-series order starring A-list Hollywood actresses Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon in a fictional morning show drama that will depict behind-the-scenes lives of morning show TV workers.
Reportedly, it was a multiple-bidding war, with stiff competition from Netflix, that saw Apple emerge as the triumphant party.
In addition to their acting roles, both the stars will be attached to the show as executive producers, as well. While Aniston will executive produce the show under her “Echo Films” banner, Witherspoon will do it through her production company “Hello Sunshine.”
Anniston’s last TV appearance was in the hit comedy show “Friends” which ended in 2004. Witherspoon, who has appeared as Anniston’s sister on “Friends,” recently acted and produced the Emmy-winning HBO series “Big Little Lies.”
Each 10-episode season of the morning show series is being produced by Media Res, a studio founded by former HBO executive Michael Ellenberg, who is also one of the executive producers of the show.
Under the new model, Aniston and Witherspoon will also have ownership in the series along with Media Res.
Written and executive produced by Jay Carson (“House of Cards”), the yet untitled series is based on an original idea by Ellenberg, with CNN reporter Brian Stelter’s book, “Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV,” providing the research and background material for the show. Stelter will serve as a consultant for the series and Carson as the showrunner.
The series proposes to give an insight into the behind-the-scenes lives of the men and women who work relentlessly to wake up a groggy America to the challenges of the day ahead.
The report comes on the back of another Apple initiative to revive | remake Steven Spielberg’s science fiction anthology series “Amazing Stories” of the 1980s. The news of the deal, which first emerged in October, has been confirmed by Apple spokeswoman Rita Cooper Lee.
According to “The Hollywood Reporter,” the “Amazing Stories” anthology, being executive produced by Steven Spielberg in partnership with Bryan Fuller, “will transport the audience to worlds of wonder through the lens of today’s most imaginative filmmakers, directors, and writers.”
Fuller will also serve as the program’s showrunner while Amblin Television’s Darryl Frank, Justin Falvey and Hart Hanson will executive produce the program from Universal Television.
It would appear that Apple is on a head-on collision course with Netflix, Amazon and other juggernauts who have the financial strength and the wherewithal to attract A-List actors in streaming-only original productions.
While the Anniston-Witherspoon project and the “Amazing Stories” reboot are going to be the first two scripted projects for Apple, the company has tried its hand on unscripted original series in the past with reality show “Planet of the Apps” and James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke.”
Apple has not yet announced any premiere dates for either of the two shows. Also, no information has been shared about the platform on which the shows can be viewed.
Jennifer Anniston’s role as Rachel Green on the superhit TV sitcom “Friends,” which ran from 1994-2004, has the distinction of being recognized as one of the 100 greatest female characters in United States television. It has also fetched her a Primetime Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
Reese Witherspoon, winner of an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, a BAFTA Award, and a Golden Globe Award, produced and acted in HBO’s 2017 drama series “Big Little Lies,” winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series as the show’s producer.
Jay Carson named one of Fortune Magazine’s “40 Under 40: Ones to Watch” in 2011, has been the Supervising Producer and the political consultant for the Netflix television series “House of Cards.”
Michael Ellenberg, the former EVP of drama development for HBO and founder of Media Res, is known for films like Prometheus (2012), Robin Hood (2010) and Stoker (2013). Before he left HBO he oversaw the launch of “True Detective,” “Westworld,” “Game of Thrones,” and Witherspoon’s “Big Little Lies.”
Bryan Fuller is the name behind several critically acclaimed TV series such as “Dead Like Me,” “Wonderfalls,” “Pushing Daisies,” “Hannibal,” and “American Gods.” He has also worked on several “Star Trek” series – writing a few episodes for “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and co-creating “Star Trek: Discovery” among other “Star Trek” assignments.