Becky Fuller's got spunk. She's got spunk like Mary Richards (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) had spunk. And like the venerable Mary Richards, she's got spunk enough to talk herself into a terrible job as the producer of a terrible television news show. And to stride purposefully and confidently through the streets of the big city, and to leap for joy when she gets the job. Mary threw her hat in the air, but nobody can do that again. Not even ironically, and certainly not in a cheerily bland movie like Morning Glory, which is inspired partly by The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and partly, it seems, by the movie Broadcast News.
So Becky (Rachel McAdams) leaps, and lands her dream (or nightmare) job, producing Daybreak, the IBS network morning show, perennially in fourth place behind those other shows you've heard of, with their chipper co-hosts and cheery weathermen. (Maybe the show would do better if the network didn't have the same name as an unpleasant gastrointestinal disease -- if there's a joke there, the movie doesn't exploit it.) Daybreak has Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) and a revolving door of co-anchors -- the position's current occupant is a pervert named McVee (Ty Burrell). Becky boosts staff morale and wins the respect of her team when she fires McVee on her first day, showing that she's tough and dedicated. Then she has to find a replacement, and through some contractual extortion (see, she's really tough), she lands Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), a legendary, award-winning news anchor who is still fighting the hard news versus fluffy human interest news battle (there's the Broadcast News part). Another producer (Patrick Wilson), who becomes a tepid love interest for Becky, calls Mike the third worst person in the world (a joke that's pretty funny when you know who the first two are). Mike lives up to his reputation as a hard customer, and he is mightily misquemed* at having been shanghaied into a job that he unambiguously thinks is beneath him. He pretty much refuses to do anything except read "real" news stories in a grave, stentorian voice, and glare at his co-anchor.
Mike's still fighting the good fight, even though the battle is pretty much lost. Becky embraces the fluff, she defends the fluff, she thinks the fluff has value. It entertains. It makes people happy. Mike's not happy, and Mike doesn't care if anyone else is happy either. Will perky Becky get crabby Mike on board in time to save Daybreak from cancellation? Will her perkiness rub off on her torpid, ratings-challenged TV show?
Morning Glory accepts that frothy, forgettable, disposable entertainment is not only the norm, both on morning TV and in movies, but that it's just fine. The script by Aline Brosh Michell (The Devil Wears Prada) offers up funny dialogue aplenty for its paper-thin characters, but not much else. Becky is a peppy workaholic, stubbornly devoted to her job. She'll do just about anything for Daybreak. Mike is grumpy and hard-drinking and one mean old SOB who likes to cook eggs. Mike is a dinosaur, and though the movie gives him one last chance to roar and bare his teeth, there are no apologies made here for pushing the kind of fluffy, upbeat entertainment Mike abhors (even though he's the most interesting human interest story in the movie). The rest of the movie's characters have little going on, although the cast is terrific, and make the most of their roles.
Director Roger Michell (Notting Hill) keeps Morning Glory moving at a peppy pace, with lots of bright and insistent pop songs filling in the emotional gaps and leaving no feeling unemphasized. Morning Glory practices what it preaches -- it's a perky movie about the triumph of perkiness.
*Misqueme means displease. It's an endangered word, a victim of disuse, and the Oxford English Dictionary has begun a campaign to save endangered words from extinction. You can adopt an endangered word by pledging to use it and keep it alive. I've adopted misqueme, so you can expect to see it again in the future. Get your own word at savethewords.org.