• James Kunovski

Dear Ryan Murphy, It’s Time to Stop

Prolific television producer Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story) recently struck a five-year deal with Netflix worth an unfathomable three-hundred million dollars. Given that deal guarantees at least a dozen productions we have so far been 'gifted' with a few releases, including The Politician and Hollywood. The latest revelation is Ratched, starring Murphy-golden girl Sarah Paulson, which pitches an origin story for Mildred Ratched of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It recently dropped its trailer, and, well...

I wonder if Murphy and his collaborators have even read the novel or seen the film. Where exactly did they gather this backstory? While it’s true that Nurse Ratched was cruel and that her portrayal by Louise Fletcher added to the archetype of the heartless healthcare worker, it seems that Murphy and company have no idea what her character really represents. She was cruel because she was emboldened by the power of corrupt institutions. She was oppressive because she represented the desensitisation of modern society. That’s not the best basis for camp. She isn’t even the most interesting character beyond the film/novel. Eight episodes dedicated to her being awful to sick patients. Yeah, I’ll pass. Given his track record, how does he expect to sustain her story arc for that long? On top of all that, Murphy missed a great opportunity to explore this premise with a more suitable character. Annie Wilkes, from Misery, was originally a nurse, and would have been a more believable choice considering she was a serial killer and all. Why choose to explore another psychiatric hospital when Asylum is the strongest point in the American Horror Story canon? Murphy's work becomes more palatable when he tones down the camp and focuses on character intentions over style. Think back to American Crime Story or even Feud and at how well those worked. So, why has this got me so riled up? Well, because, believe it or not, I strangely look forward to his productions and the polarising reactions they trigger. He is a unique creator in those regards but his Netflix catalogue is seriously lacking. I would love to be proven wrong by Ratched. The Politician fell victim to the Murphy curse and lost its plot due to muddled writing. It also killed off a popular character then had the nerve to renew itself for another season. Then, there’s Hollywood with its tactless approach to revisionist history. There are some positives from that trailer. The bubblegum-palette production design and costumes are spectacular and the cast is pretty awesome but the appeal sort of ends there. And seriously, was 2020 really the best year to release a series like this? Ryan Murphy has more productions on the way, including an adaptation of the Broadway musical The Prom. How will that fare? Time has yet to tell but with the money, resources and Netflix association at his disposal, there’s really no excuse for this level of entertainment. Ratched premieres September 18 on Netflix.