Hardworking, plucky 28-year-old assistant producer Becky Fuller goes to bed with the chickens and gets up before them. She thinks she's going to get a promotion at her local TV station to executive producer for the sunrise show Good Morning New Jersey. Her colleagues kindle excitement that the boss will offer her the brass ring.
Too bad he lays her off instead. He calls her the best producer he's ever had to fire—but she still gets the pink slip.
Not one to crumple, Becky pounds the pavement until Jerry, director of the tanking-like-the-Titanic national morning show Daybreak interviews her. He says her executive producer pay would be appalling, show morale is in the toilet and anchors Colleen Peck and Paul McVee are foul, heinous and only semi-talented. Their program is perpetually in last place, after Today, Good Morning America and that CBS show he can never remember the name of.
Undeterred, Becky says she'll take it. She's even thrilled. After all, it's network TV.
Her first smart move? Firing lazy, pompous and perverted Paul. But in his place she hires a man whom her new boyfriend, Adam, calls "the third worst person in the world." He's iconic newscaster and veteran curmudgeon Mike Pomeroy. He's also lazy and pompous—but he's got a Pulitzer, eight Peabody Awards and 16 Emmys. He's just the ticket to rev up those ratings.
Becky's job? Keep Colleen and Mike from killing each other. Keep the guys in the suits upstairs from canning the show. Oh, and she needs to keep her own life afloat, too, but that's not as pressing.
Becky's tenuous standing with Pomeroy gradually shifts as he begins to see her personal worth and contribution to the show. Haughty and self-absorbed Pomeroy, who believes morning news is both ridiculous and beneath him, actually humbles himself on-air in order to prove to Becky that he cares for her.
Because of Becky's devotion to Daybreak—a show she says needs someone to believe in it, just like she needs someone to believe in her—the cast and crew eventually become a family of sorts as Becky perseveres in her effort to cajole and push people into giving their best. Morale improves under her leadership. And she swears to Pomeroy, "I will not give up!" She doesn't—sort of. We'll talk later about how she does ditch her ideals along the way, though.
Adam, a newsmagazine segment producer, understands Becky's insane work schedule, and he's intrigued by her "different" personality. He patiently works around and with her quirks, and the two grow into an understanding—albeit highly sexualized—relationship.
Becky stands up to Pomeroy, and he slowly starts to listen to her (sometimes) levelheaded reason. In turn, he shares his sad wisdom, warning her not to exist solely for work while neglecting family and other aspects of life, as he has. Among other things, he regrets "screwing up" his kids.
Pomeroy calls the evening news a sacred temple and says morning news shows in general and Becky in particular are the cabal that's ruining it. A reporter wants to do a story on celebrities' past lives.
Becky and Adam make out, start to undress each other and then fall onto his couch together in a sexual position. It's implied they have sex later. We see her scantily clad derriere several times. A newsman talks about his foot fetish, offering to photograph Becky's feet. He later says he visits a pornographic website (with a lewd title I shan't repeat here). To boost ratings, Becky does an eight-part series on orgasms. Filming lesbian parents is said to be preferred over straight ones for a particular news piece.
Becky claims her dating "radar" is off, and she doesn't realize men are interested in her until they're naked. Pomeroy mockingly asks Becky if her (fictitious) baby is his. A reporter is said to have been hired solely because she's sleeping with the boss. It's implied that sexual stuff goes on in the show's dressing rooms. An on-air photo caption mistakenly labels Jimmy Carter a sex offender. Becky stays overnight at Pomeroy's home, and he later jokes that he "wore her out" and then woke her up with his "African rain stick."
A Playboy Bunny's suggestive photo is seen. Hookers are mentioned, as is defecation. Pap smears, erectile dysfunction and prostate exams come up in conversation. Crass double entendres are employed. Crude language is used for male genitalia.
Becky decides it'll help ratings to have the weatherman do a whole bunch of adrenaline-inducing stunts for the camera. He ends up injuring himself at least once, and he passes out during a filmed ride in a fighter jet. Wearing a fat suit, Colleen participates in a sumo wrestling match. Pomeroy shoots a pheasant, then carries the headless bird.
Becky bangs her head against a wall … literally.
Crude or Profane Language
One straight-out f-word along with several other slurred or partial ones. (One of the partials tails off after "mother.") At least 15 s-words. Almost 20 misuses of God's name, which is once coupled with "d‑‑n." Close to a dozen abuses of Jesus' name. Handfuls of such words as "h‑‑‑," "a‑‑," "b‑‑tard" and "b‑‑ch" fill in the remaining pauses.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Clearly Pomeroy is an alcoholic. And several times he's seen sloshed … or at the very least drinking heavily. Even at work, he chugs down the hard stuff. And Becky has to babysit him the night before his first show to insure that he won't drink so much that he can't function the next day. Adam jokes that it's a great time for Becky to take up drinking herself now that she's working with Pomeroy.
Multiple scenes occur in bars. Bongs and coke are briefly joked about. Pomeroy smokes a cigar.
Other Negative Elements
Pomeroy is content to live off the news company's dime while doing nothing toward fulfilling his contract. He accepts the Daybreak position only because he might lose the last $6 million in his contract if he doesn't.
An anchor prospect is mocked behind his back and said to have horse teeth. Colleen and Mike would have no relationship at all if it weren't for their incessant and haughty bickering and name-calling. Pomeroy, by the way, "wins" every time. He's practiced more than she has. He belittles virtually everyone at some point. He lies to Becky, too.
Equally sad is the fact that it takes on-air bickering, some risqué language and outrageous stories to raise Daybreak's ratings—implying that it's not the quality of the programming that viewers tune in for, but the shock value.
Becky's pessimistic mother tells her daughter to stop reaching for her lifelong dream of producing a news show.
A little person is called a dwarf.
Broadcast journalists have long been notorious for using inappropriate language on the set. But until fairly recently, they hadn't been known for using it on the air. Walter Cronkite and other old-school journalistic royalty faced the camera and delivered the news with dignity and clean language.
Today, though, it's become old news to hear of an anchorperson getting caught using profanity or badmouthing a colleague or guest while the camera's on. YouTube is riddled with "funny" videos of national and local newscasters letting profanity and lousy attitudes rip.
Becky's pluck, belief in Daybreak and never-say-die attitude bring the show's cast and crew around. Morale perks up. Work conditions improve. Her rough relationship with Pomeroy softens as the ill-tempered Mike comes to see and appreciate her determination and kindness. All are reasons to wake up for Morning Glory. Colleen's and Mike's sniping, jealousy and profanity, however, aren't so loveable.
Not that anyone's blinking … or covering their ears.
In journalism, as in the rest of American life, civility is in the ICU. And Morning Glory actually encourages further loss of seemliness to boost ratings. Becky had lofty goals and grand visions of doing something valuable with her TV career. But the second she's up against the wall of low viewership (and the threat of cancellation), she grabs for the gutter with gusto, doing an eight-part series on orgasms, for instance, and yukking her way through a mountain of cheap laughs.
She never acknowledges—even to herself—that her new low has become her new goal. And the movie never tweaks her motives or her change of direction.