ENTERTAINMENT
01/05/2020 07:00 BST

Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood Is The Glamorous, Sexy And Scandalous Escape We All Need Right Now

If you only watch one thing this weekend, make it the American Horror Story and Pose creator's new Netflix show.

With an almost endless list of hit series under his belt already, at this stage TV fans know the trademarks of a Ryan Murphy drama.

Think bright colours (Glee, The Politician), the same revolving cast of actors across his different projects (American Horror Story, Feud) and putting untold stories to the forefront (American Crime Story, Pose). You should also usually expect sex, scandal and a whole lot of camp.

Well, his new limited series Hollywood, the TV super producer’s second collaboration with streaming giant Netflix, has all of that wrapped up in a shiny – and very expensive – bow.

Netflix/Getty/HuffPost

So what’s it all about?

As the not-exactly-subtle title suggests, Hollywood takes place in the golden era of Tinsel Town, and swiftly introduces us to a group of young hopefuls who want to make it in show business, mixing fictional characters and real-life figures from the film industry.

At the centre of it all is David Corinswet – who got his break-out role in Ryan Murphy’s first Netflix venture, The Politician – as aspiring actor Jack Castello. After the war ends, he and his wife travel to Los Angeles where he hopes he can make a name for himself in Hollywood.

Things don’t exactly go his way, though, and down on his luck, he finds himself working at a car garage that also doubles as a brothel, frequented by Hollywood’s powerful and wealthy.

Netflix
David Corinswet leads an impressive ensemble cast in Netflix's Hollywood

And that, friends, is how 20 minutes into episode one, we’re greeted with the image of Broadway legend Patti LuPone laying back on a luxurious hotel bed in lingerie, ready to receive oral sex.

Yes, while Ryan Murphy has always peppered his hit shows with sex, and exploration of characters’ sexualities, Hollywood is quite possibly his raciest (and most explicit) offering to date. Fortunately, because the whole show is completely seeped in scandal, these scenes only occasionally border on gratuitous, but Glee this is not.

One area that Ryan Murphy has been celebrated for throughout his career is pushing forward when it comes to on-screen representation. With Feud, he made a point of casting two actresses in their seventies in the lead roles, Pose saw the biggest ever ensemble of transgender actors in a TV show and in 2016, he launched a foundation to push for more women in behind-the-scenes roles.

Interestingly, his approach in this new show has been to rewrite the history of  Hollywood, to be more idealistic and progressive.

This is particular true with the characters of Camille Washington and Archie Coleman, an aspiring Black actress and writer, who are set on the road to success in a way that the real Hollywood of that time that would, regrettably, never have allowed. 

Netflix
Laura Harrier stars as aspiring actress Camille Washington

He also shines a light on real-life figures from Hollywood who were overlooked by the industry, or had their careers cut short unfairly.

Among these are Chinese-American actress Anna Mae Wong and even Peg Entwistle, who took her own life by jumping from the Hollywood sign when she became disillusioned with the industry, allowing them their own unique redemption arc, even if it isn’t in their actual lifetime.

Who’s in the oh-so-Ryan Murphy cast?

Fresh from playing tragic teenager River in The Politician, David Corenswet leads the cast as Jack Castello, while Glee and American Crime Story star Darren Criss appears as Raymond Ainsley. 

Netflix
Darren Criss has been reunited with Ryan Murphy in the super producer's latest TV offering

Aforementioned stage icon Patti LuPone – whose past work with Ryan Murphy includes Pose, American Horror Story and a cameo appearance as herself in Glee – is an absolute scene-stealer as Avis Amberg, the wife of Ace Studios’ chief. The Politician and AHS: Murder House’s Dylan McDermott appears as Ernie, who runs the garage/brothel where several of the characters work.

But there are some newcomers to the Murphy-verse, too.

One of the show’s key romances plays out between actor Roy Fitzgerald (a real-life A-lister, whose identity becomes apparent as Hollywood plays out) and screenwriter Archie, played by Jake Picking and Jeremy Pope, the latter of whom has already landed a role in the forthcoming third series of Pose.

Netflix
Jake Picking and Jeremy Pope are the actors at the centre of Roy and Archie's love story

Meanwhile, veteran star Holland Taylor (the partner of frequent Murphy collaborator Sarah Paulson), Samara Weaving (last seen in cult horror Ready Or Not), Jim Parsons (from The Big Bang Theory, obv) and Laura Harrier (of Spider-Man: Homecoming and BlacKkKlansman fame) complete the main cast.

There are plenty of cameos to spot too, including Michelle Krusiec and Queen Latifah, who play minor roles as golden age greats across the seven episodes.

What are the critics saying?

Admittedly, critical reception has been a little mixed so far, with some feeling Ryan Murphy’s revisionist approach is a little too earnest, rose-tinted and even a little cheesy.

The BBC went as far as branding Hollywood a “disaster”, claiming it “comes across as considerably less rousing, and considerably more megalomaniacal, than they presumably intended”, while Entertainment Weekly criticised the show for its “blandness” and “lack [in] personality”.

Perhaps if our own circumstances were different we’d cast a more critical eye too. We can’t argue that the show verges on cheesy at times, and its short run means that fairly heavy issues (particularly relating to sexual misconduct) are skimmed over rather than being explored more in-depth.

However, as we come to the end of yet another week on lockdown, with so many of us crying out for escapism, we can’t help but feel that a show as lavish, sunshine-soaked and expensive-looking as Hollywood has come along at just the right time.

Watch this if you already enjoyed...

Feud: Bette And Joan, The Politician, Smash, The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Where can I watch Hollywood?

All seven episodes are now streaming on Netflix.