In the first episode of The Morning Show, Apple’s stunning initial foray into scripted television, a conservative small-town Virginia reporter named Bradley Jackson – played to near perfection by Reese Witherspoon – tells her producer, “The truth is the truth whether you’re writing for The Bumf%*$ Gazette or the New York Times.”

The show spends the next nine episodes trying to prove her right.

The truth is most definitely not the truth in New York, where the rest of the drama unfolds.  Jennifer Aniston, in perhaps the best dramatic performance of her career as esteemed morning anchor Alex Levy, slips a wedding ring on her finger before leaving for work in her on-screen introduction. Her marriage to Jason Craig, lovingly portrayed by Jack Davenport, is a lie concocted to maintain her immaculately crafted television persona.

The mild-mannered, “All American Dad” persona of Mitch Kessler, her co-anchor, creepily brought to life by Steve Carell, is also a lie. After Levy learns he has been fired for sexual misconduct – the specifics of which will sound familiar to anyone who remembers Matt Lauer – she angrily asks her producer, “My on-air partner, my TV husband… is a sexual predator now?”

In fact, nearly everything about the fictional world of The Morning Show is a lie. Kessler didn’t become a sexual predator overnight, he did so in full view of nearly everyone on the show. The network-ordered investigation into his misconduct isn’t designed to figure out what happened, but to protect the network’s image. Levy receives a prestigious journalism award not because of her journalism, but because the network paid for it. And, although the show calls Jackson a conservative throughout, it attributes to her no actual conservative values, save a relentless search for the truth.

For Levy, Jackson’s polar opposite in almost every way, what’s at issue instead is “the narrative.” She spends the entire season juggling the various lies holding her world together. “I need to control the narrative,” she says desperately in an early episode, “so I’m not written out of it.” The show’s first and final episode each feature Levy addressing Kessler’s behavior live on-air, but only in one of those is she telling the truth.

In between those bookends, we are treated to some of the best writing of the decade. Given the state of today’s woke entertainment industry, you could be forgiven for thinking a show written entirely about the #MeToo movement would be preachy and insufferable, but neither of those is on offer here. What we see instead is a nuanced portrait of real people with real motivations engaged in a struggle to figure things out.

For all of Kessler’s predatory behavior – and he maintains his innocence throughout – the show presents a myriad of other relationships intended to challenge our perceptions. One of Kessler’s “victims,” a woman who directly reported to him, steadfastly asserts her own agency regarding the affair and insists that she ended it on her terms (this, along with so much else in the show, could be a lie). A sub-plot involving the show’s male weather reporter and a female intern has the latter telling the former, “If there is a power imbalance in this relationship, it’s the one I have over you.” Even Jackson finds herself in an intimate relationship which, seen through a different lens, could leave you wondering whether she was the predator.

The seriousness of the subject matter is reflected in the performances of Aniston and Carell. Both are gifted comedic actors – among the best of their generation – but neither are at all funny. Carell has a Michael Scott moment here and there, but each feels – as they should – both cringe-worthy and sad. Aniston, even in her lighter moments, never generates a laugh, to the benefit of her character. There is nothing funny about someone who deserts a devoted spouse and daughter for television stardom.

There is comedy to be had in The Morning Show, courtesy of Billy Crudup, in the performance of his career as Cory Ellison, head of the UBS news division. Serving as both the ringleader of The Morning Show circus and its clown, he steals nearly every scene in which he appears. Snubbed by the Golden Globes, he is nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award and should, if the voters have any sense, win going away.

Trying to place this show in the pantheon of what many have called the Golden Age of television, I scrolled though The AV Club’s countdown of the best television shows of the 2010s trying to find something better. I reached single digits before I stopped. When the next decade’s list is written, I can confidently predict The Morning Show will occupy a perch near the very top.  It is dramatic entertainment at its very finest.