Many things happen in the season-two finale of The Morning Show — some may say too many things, in fact. Jennifer Aniston’s Alex Levy records a vlog about having COVID. Jennifer Aniston’s Alex Levy makes a rambling speech about cancel culture. Reese Witherspoon’s Bradley Jackson breaks into the ER in the midst of a pandemic in order to reunite with her brother. Mark Duplass’s Chip Black risks getting COVID to help Alex film stuff. But most importantly, Billy Crudup’s Cory Ellison tries desperately to launch his streaming service UBA+. That’s what we’re going to focus on in this post, because while watching the second season of The Morning Show, one question haunted me: Who would actually subscribe to UBA+?
Here’s what we know about UBA+: It’s a late-to-the-market streaming service from a major TV network that exists in a world where Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and other streaming services already exist. (One character jokes in a scene set in early 2020 that “another streaming service should be illegal.”) None of the characters ever reference Apple TV+ — despite the fact that all use Apple products constantly — nor do they mention the two closest comparisons to UBA+: Peacock, which resembles the fictional service in its association with the network NBC, and Quibi, the deceased brainchild of media mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg. Katzenberg’s grand pronouncements about how Quibi would change the future of television could very well be the model for the way Cory talks about UBA+ saving the network; in the finale, he tells Holland Taylor that he and the streaming service are one and the same (though, sadly, The Morning Show never gets Billy Crudup to say the words “quick bite,” a missed opportunity).
Unlike Quibi, UBA+ seems to employ a more traditional approach to making content, in that all the shows mentioned as UBA+ hits sound like standard TV comedies and dramas, not short-form series. On one call earlier in the season, Cory mentions they have secured the streaming rights to a series called Hampton (I’m guessing that’s a prime-time soap like Revenge) and something called Apocalypse 13 (maybe a sci-fi movie?) for their catalogue. Later, there are several mentions of a hit TV series about the Donner Party, which sounds exceedingly grim, but hey, audiences love terrible true stories.
Finally, when he’s getting ready to promote the launch of UBA+, Cory shows up on a late-night talk show to tout some of its properties. The host holds up a clipping from the L.A. Times by the fictional Tony Griffin, who really lays into Cory’s dreams. Despite the fact that UBA+ has employed David Fincher to “revive the infamous Donner Party film,” that LeBron James is executive-producing “a reality TV series that chronicles rising sports stars in underprivileged communities,” that Dave Chappelle has a new comedy special for the platform (oh no), and that “Beyonce” (spelled without an accent in the fake L.A. Times, unfortunately) is “starting her own talk show on the upcoming streamer,” Griffin decides the service has “not much” to offer. Also, Cory has spent at least $450 million on those investments, a number that seems to be another Quibi joke (Katzenberg paid $400 million).
As The Morning Show constantly reminds you, UBA+ has the misfortune of a launch date in mid-March 2020. That means its big star-studded premiere is canceled right around the time Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson announced they got COVID. Bad news for Cory, and for promoting the platform! The good(?) news: He decides to pull a Hail Mary and let Alex film a whole UBA+ special about having COVID while she has COVID. Everyone on The Morning Show treats this as must-see TV, but I can’t imagine sitting through it myself. So grim!
One more crucial piece of information: UBA+ has a subscription fee of $7.99. That’s above the cost of Apple TV+ and Peacock Premium, which are both $4.99 a month, and equivalent to the current Disney+ cost. I can’t imagine that UBA+ has an equivalent back catalogue of movies and TV to match Disney, and it certainly doesn’t have Baby Yoda, so this seems like a bit of an ask. However, UBA+ does have a monthlong free trial, so you could just binge everything for a month and then cancel.
The one crucial factor: What exactly happens on Beyoncé’s talk show? Does she perform? Does she conduct interviews? (Beyoncé hardly ever sits for interviews herself, so it seems odd of her to want to talk to someone else.) Is it a variety special? Does she do bits? If Beyoncé is regularly doing bits on streaming TV, well, then, unfortunately I am going to have to subscribe to UBA+.