Hollywood

What if?

That’s the question posed by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan in their wonderful new series, Hollywood.

What if, during the Golden Years of Hollywood, life had been so much more socially progressive? What if it wasn’t all run by straight, white men? What if women, the black community and gays had been given equal access? What stories might have emerged on the silver screen and how would that have fundamentally changed America?

Behold a reimagined Tinseltown in this 7 episode fantasy, part-fiction, but partly inspired by suppressed, real stories.

At the heart of the series is a new movie script, Peg, to be made by Ace Studios. With his eye firmly on stardom is a hunky young farm boy from Missouri, Jack (David Coronswet). He loiters outside the studio gates in the hope of being cast as an extra -a first step on his quest for celluloid glory.

“Good lookin’ kid, no training. You’re a dime a dozen!” he is told.

But Ernie (Dylan McDermott), owner of the Golden Tip Gas Station, offers him a job pumping gas. Little does he realise he is expected to turn tricks as a gigolo whenever a cashed-up customer -male or female- drops the password, “I want to go to Dreamland.”

Jack gets resourceful after seconding black, gay screenwriter Archie (Jeremy Pope), who has written the script for Peg -the story of an aspiring actress so disillusioned with the town she throws herself off the top of the Hollywood sign.

Rising  multi-race director Raymond (Darren Criss) convinces Ace Studios to make the film, but studio boss Ace Amberg (Rob Reiner) isn’t about to risk his neck just to be socially progressive. He warns studio execs Dick Samuels (Joe Mantello) and Ellen Kinkaid (Holland Taylor) against having a black screenwriter, meanwhile his daughter Claire (Samara Weaving) wants the role they covet forblack actress Camille (Laura Harrier).

It’s a dense but handsome cast and the other significant roles are the studio boss’ wife Avis (Patti LuPone), closeted aspiring actor Rock Hudson (Jake Picking) and ruthless gay Hollywood agent Henry (Jim Parsons).

A tug-of-war ensues between conservatism and liberal thinking, but dotted along the roadside are hypocrisy, fear, and compromise. Creating an alternate history entails much sacrifice. Hollywood recreations Sunset Boulevarde, A Star is Born and Moviola were never like this.

David Coronswet is dazzlingly endearing as the aspiring movie star, whose dreams come at considerable cost. He is aptly matched by Jeremy Pope as the talented screenwriter who represents the voice of change. Amongst a rich cast are some supporting players who will surely attract attention come awards season: Joe Mantello as the executive ready to take a risk, Patti LuPone as the wife facing grand decisions, and Jim Parsons in the most detestable role of his career as a power-hungry, abusive agent.

Visually Hollywood is quite magnificent, with gleaming art-deco sets and costumes filling every corner of the screen. With its swingin’ soundtrack, this makes for a helluva seductive ride through a town where box office receipts rule over principles.

According to the filmmakers, such fear and power still reigns supreme in Tinseltown. What makes it so scary, is that they are in a position to know. Who wants to go to Dreamland, now?

Hollywood screens from today on Netflix.

Amended.

7 Comments:

  1. my thoughts were similar to that of The Politician. All style, no substance. Full points for style, character development, dialogue, production value.
    But I thought the storyline was predictable and could have been any generic disney kids show, only with nudity. And same as The Politician, it was lacking a lot of the Ryan Murphy outlandish comedy. He needs to invest in a comedic writer in his writing teams.

  2. 5 stars. Fantastic series and the production was excellent. The storyline of each character gets you hooked right til the end. Would have loved to have lived in that era. Season 2 I hope!

  3. I planned to just watch two episodes and head to bed but it’s now midnight and I’m 4 episodes deep. I love it!
    The BBC gave it a pretty scathing review but it’s almost as if they were expecting some historically accurate portrayal of the Hollywood of old when I see this as more of a love letter to the glitz and glamour!
    I’m glad I didn’t let that review influence my decision to watch, your review is well on point and i can’t wait to finish the last 3 episodes!

  4. Absolutely can’t wait for this tonight and will have an Espresso Martini at the ready for it’s premiere 🙂 Anything that Ryan Murphy has a hand in I am a fan of.
    Love that the script they are making is called ‘Peg’. It’s actually a reference to the real life Peg Entwistle (she wasn’t black) who was a starlet that jumped to her death off the H on the Hollywoodland sign in 1932.
    I imagine there will be lots of fabulous references to the Hollywood of old even though it has been re-imagined.
    Dreamland here I come 🙂

  5. Oh sweet. Only 7 episodes. This bodes well because Ryan Murphy always has great ideas and puts them into great action early on in his many series… but forgets to keep the quality going, meandering over a season and then inevitably loses it with an often flat finale… see Glee, the many individual seasons of American Horror Story, The Assassination of… Nip/Tuck, Scream Queens and even the second season of Pose all to varying effect.
    7 episodes doesn’t really give him time to falter with this strong idea so hopefully he delivers throughout

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