Ryan Murphy has brought several memorable shows to television. Shows like Glee, American Horror Story and Pose have certain lovable and enthralling seasons that have earned appreciation from audiences.
Murphy’s latest Netflix adventure, Hollywood, is not only quite forgettable, but it’s also wildly offensive with several useless plot lines, unearned character arcs and no consistency with tone.
Set in post-World War II Hollywood, the show follows a group of young, aspiring creatives trying to make it big in the industry. Be it acting, writing or directing, everyone is trying to make a name for themselves. When Archie (Jeremy Pope) writes a killer screenplay, Raymond (Darren Chris) demands to direct it. However, he wants Camille (Laura Harrier), an African-American woman, to star in it. Though this is fairly taboo at the time, this is only one of the major issues presented with the creation of the film. The cast works to navigate through prostitution, racism, sexism and abusive big names in the industry.
In regards to the premise alone, there could’ve been a great show to come out of this. However, Hollywood became another example of Ryan Murphy failing to execute a decent idea.
Murphy is notorious for his terrible dialogue, and that was extremely prevalent with this show. There are a lot of moments that could be impactful, but instead, the dialogue renders them pointless.
Half of the plot lines follow the pointless theme as well. Structure-wise, the pilot shouldn’t have existed. The whole plot line with Ernie (Dylan McDermott) and the prostitution ring doesn’t really add anything to the story, so the entire concept of the first episode brings nothing to the rest of the six episodes that follow. That’s not the only plot line that is essentially useless, but it’s definitely one of the largest. With so many characters and plot lines to follow, the writers should’ve introduced all of the characters in the first episode and immediately focused on the premise of making Archie’s film instead of making it unbelievably convoluted off the bat.
What’s disappointing is the fact that Murphy and the rest of the creative team throw character development out the window when progressing through the plot. Almost every character has an unearned arc and no clear decision-making or defining situation to motivate them in their actions. Especially with everything being so fast paced throughout the show, there is no attention to detail or even a remotely little amount of time spent to create compelling characters.
What’s even more disappointing is the fact that these characters had tremendous potential for great character arcs and were even backed by a wildly fantastic cast of all-stars. Pope, Chris and Harrier were three extremely key players who do a phenomenal job acting with what they were given, but among the names are also Broadway icon Patti LuPone, Samara Weaving, Jake Picking, Jim Parsons, Holland Taylor, Queen Latifah and Joe Mantello, who bring simply fantastic performances to the poor script they’ve been handed. By far the strongest players were Pope and LuPone, who never ceased to bring the fire and light up the screen with every single scene.
The upside: the production value is beautiful. The costumes, the music, the set design and the hair and makeup are all immaculate. As a period piece, it’s essential to have accurate aspects of production like costumes, sets and beautification. Especially with the added pressure of it being a Hollywood period piece (with an Academy Awards ceremony at that), the production value is incredibly well done.
The downside (if you even need another one): the show is dangerously idealistic and quite problematic in terms of sexism and racism. It’s offensive in its delusional nature, essentially putting the rose goggles on Hollywood back in the day. It rewrites history: having a film starring a black woman in predominantly white Hollywood and racist America be met with not only acceptance, but encouragement and endless applause. Even white supremacists stop their terrorizing.
Rewriting history begins with the rewrite of the film Meg, and life then imitates art with the audience’s reaction. By the show’s end, the characters are living in a complete utopia where homophobia, racism, sexism and any sort of bigoted behavior are gone, and people are free to live as they please without fear of being persecuted. Everyone is forward with their happy lives. Even Parsons’ rapist character gets a redemption arc in the end.
This is absolutely counterproductive and almost a slap in the face to those who have experienced oppression and to the characters in the show who are based on real people. The fact of the matter is, these events happened. Murphy’s message of erasing bigotry isn’t inspiring; in fact, it would be more inspiring if he had told it with a truthful lens. At least that way would’ve worked to shed a light on the injustices in Hollywood that still reflect in today’s society rather than utilizing unearned wish fulfillment.
Hollywood is a beautified piece of garbage. It looks pretty, but there’s not an ounce of good writing throughout the tone-deaf series. Between its offensive nature and disappointing characters, one can only hope Murphy doesn’t try to force-feed audiences a second season.