Together with a gifted screenwriter, a promising director, and a sketchy connection to Hollywood’s producers elite, they will attempt to bring a story that’s never been told before to the big screen – and as lead stars cast a black actress at the beginning of her career, an Asian-American actress who’s struggling to find roles fitting for her status, and future star Rock Hudson.
As all other Ryan Murphy shows (Feud, Glee, American Horror Story, Pose and many others), Netflix’s Hollywood is a demonstration of power. It tells a broad story consisting of many players, it’s filmed like a polished blockbuster, and boasts some of the most beautiful sets in American TV. Murphy has always excelled in his casting, and Hollywood presents a blend between new talents and established, respected actors, who usually get the better roles (as Murphy is able to see in them qualities that are not only ‘looking good in a speedo’).
Hollywood smells like money, hair-spray, and almost child-like fun. Here and there it looks like a slow subversive ‘quality TV’ - but in its heart it’s a telenovela. It’s a simple and effective story about the price of success, and it doesn't hesitate in deliveing it to viewers. Meaning, once or twice in every episode, one of the characters will burst into a monologue that explains exactly how hard it is to be gay/black/female in 1940s Hollywood – an accurate sentiment, but certainly not an original one.
And as all other Murphy shows, Hollywood is very binge-worthy. The story it portrays seems more far-fetched than authentic (how far-fetched? One of the show’s main anchors is based on a true story about a gas station/garage, where all the employees are happy and attractive male escorts whose job is to pleasure the Hollywood executives, and in between fix some cars), and in any case, a gripping one. We, the modern viewers, know that the inclusive and ambitious movie produced on the show could not happen in real life.
We also know that Rock Hudson wasn’t as dumb as Hollywood shows him to be, that a relationship between a white man and a black woman would receive a very different treatment in real life, and that working in the sex industry is much less happy and glamorous that it is presented on the show. And still, Murphy’s magic works again.
Hollywood is not a realistic story, but rather a fun and glamorous fantasy about what could have been. It shows an improved and softened Hollywood dream, and as such, it’s also silly and enjoyable enough to pleasantly carry you through its episodes.