Filed in: Art Direction, Featured, Television

The Simplistic Eye-Catching Production Design of The Morning Show

June 5, 2020 | By

The Morning Show is an Apple TV+ series based on the book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV by Brian Stelter. The show follows Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) as she strives to continue to be the top news anchor as her long time on-air partner Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) was suddenly fired due to a sexual misconduct scandal, while field reporter Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) finds herself with an opportunity to rival Alex on one of the biggest morning programs on TV.

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The Morning Show features sets that appear to be simplistic, but with a distinctive essence that catches the eye of viewers. Much of the look came from production designer John Paino as he created the sets to have a morning show style, but with a specific slickness that elevates it from the others. The design had influences from the Today Show, Good Morning America, and the vast amount of LED screens displayed in Times Square.

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The entire Morning Show set was all designed and built. The production designer expanded, “We built the entire Morning show; the actual broadcast set, the entire backstage, and the control room all functions. It was very complicated in the sense that everything worked. The cameras on the set were broadcasting in the control room. We had assets that we created for all the screens. Nothing is green screen, it’s all actual footage that we either bought or created, and we’re getting the live feed from the broadcast set. We also have the filming of the broadcast set. The entire backstage of it was built and it was all connected to a series of circular hallways, so the camera could follow people walking from dressing room to makeup into the stage. The series cameras had to work frame rate wise with the broadcast cameras and all the monitors had to work. We had to make sure all the color temperatures matched with the internal lighting and LED screens.”

Alex’s penthouse and Bradley’s hotel rooms were all constructed. “I always thought Alex would live near the high line on the West Village or the west side and wanted to make sure that there was a sense of verticality. It’s in a great location because it’s strangely remote, right near the nicest romantic part. I used the façade of that as the basis for her penthouse, which has 30-foot ceilings. We really get a sense that it is very tall and large. When standing in it, our eyes want to go up as opposed to out. For Bradley, the first hotel we wanted it to be just a business hotel that would be in midtown. The second one is based on a boutique hotel, it’s very luscious and something that would be seductive like the Crosby or The Bowery Hotel,” highlighted Paino.

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Other locations outside the news set includes Mitch’s residence, the UBA network offices, and the California fires. Paino continued, “For Mitch, we found this great house that felt like the nouveau riche, Westchester Estate. Even though it’s a very nice house, huge, and expensive finishes, it feels sterile in a certain way. We found a hotel that had some really great big conference spaces that we converted into some of the UBA offices for the executives. For the fires, we actually went to areas in Calabasas that had fire and property damage, then we just augmented it with additional painting and bringing in things.”

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“The hardest thing was there’s been thousands of morning shows created since the 50s. We wanted it to be simple and realistic; but to be contemporary, eye-catching, and didn’t want it to look like a lot of other things that have gone before. It was actually really hard to make something simple that had to do so much and function not only for the cameras that were part of the making of the show, but also for our crew that was shooting the cameras. You want it to work in the template of what people believe. But also want to put the mark of the scenes of the show on it.”

Production Designer John Paino

Production Designer John Paino

The production design showcased in The Morning Show features a simplistic, realistic, functional, and versatile set; with a technological, contemporary eye-catching design that distinguishes itself from every other morning show set that has come before with a unique touch.

Production designer John Paino has previously been nominated by the Art Directors Guild (ADG) for Excellence in Production Design for his work in Big Little Lies and Sharp Objects, with a Primetime Emmy nomination for his collaboration in Queer Eye.

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