Hollywood (Netflix, 2020)
Right now, Hollywood is reflecting on its history and being honest with itself. Sometimes, that is a challenging experience.
In Hollywood, created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, the feel is more positive; but the honesty is still there about how things haven’t been done right in the past. Hollywood provides an alternative take on the years 1947-8 within the industry, reflecting on the treatment of the gay community and people of colour in Hollywood at that time.
Jack is an aspiring actor with a pregnant wife, so he’s under pressure to earn. He starts working as a gigolo; one of his regulars is the wife of Ace Studios’ owner (Patti Lupone). He uses his charm and the offer of sex to worm his way into the industry.
Archie is an African American aspiring screenwriter who has just managed to have a film script picked up by Ace. Archie’s personal journey includes starting a relationship with Rock Hudson and, in a fictional rewriting of this real-life character, they go public despite the resistance of Rock’s agent Henry Willson (Jim Parsons).
Camille (Laura Harrier) is an African American actress, signed to Ace but offered only side roles where she is ordered to provide comically offensive portrayals of domestic servants. Despite support from Mira Sorvino’s Jeanne Crandall to play her current role with more subtlety, Camille is told by the director on their picture to act dumb or get fired.
These separate strands of character development come together when the group work on Archie’s script ‘Peg’, about a young woman who jumped off the Hollywoodland sign in despair when her few scenes were cut from a movie.
A major pivot sees the script renamed ‘Meg’ as Camille is cast in the leading role opposite a white love interest. ‘Meg’ is also provided with a more positive narrative and a happy ending. The studio is picketed and threatened with a boycott, and the Klan leave burning crosses outside the homes of the actors and writer. Despite this, Ace perseveres.
Hollywood, which has seven episodes, is a complete drama in just one season and there is no sign of further seasons. It is satisfying in itself and everyone’s storylines are tied up nicely at the end. This was probably the right decision, though I loved the series and secretly hope to discover that there will be more episodes.
It was a delight to see Jim Parsons again. As Leonard said, Sheldon is one lab accident away from being a super villain. Parsons’ Henry Willson showed some of what that might look like. As we were watching Hollywood a spirited discussion unfolded about how Parsons should be cast as Norman Bates in a remake of Psycho.
Hollywood was very satisfying both in terms of plot and character and in terms of its concept. Reflecting on where the industry left minorities in the past is rightly uncomfortable, but can be used as a spur to better things in the future.
Many thanks for reading my review of Hollywood. See you Monday.
You can subscribe to my blog here.
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you might be interested in reading my review of Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen here. Or you might like to take a look at my review of Life Isn’t Binary by Meg-John Barker and Alessandra Iantaffi here.
If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of Scoop by Evelyn Waugh here.