“Hollywood” Is a Retro Reminder for Us to Dream (Trailer)

There’s an interesting idea at the heart of Hollywood, the new Netflix series from Ryan Murphy and Glee co-creator Ian Brennan: What if it had gone down differently?

It takes a couple of episodes for the disorienting radicalness of this premise to gel, largely because characters based on real people mingle with characters made just for the show. We meet Ernie (Dylan McDermott), who operates a gas station that’s also a brothel serving Hollywood’s elite and wealthy who are in the closet. Jack Costello (David Corenswet), a rookie actor looking to get his big break, takes a gig at the whorehouse, and it’s there that he meets aspiring screenwriter Archie (Jeremy Pope), whose skin color and sexual orientation make his dreams impossible. Across town, we peek inside the studios that make motion pictures.

But as the story unfurls and more characters enter the equation ? including aspiring director Raymond (Darren Criss), closeted sleazy agent Henry Willson (Jim Parsons), actor Rock Hudson (Jake Picking), and actress Camille (Laura Harrier) ? the story slips deeper and deeper into fantasy. Without giving too much away, all these people become enmeshed in a plot to make a movie about Peg Entwistle, the actress who jumped to her death from the Hollywood sign in 1932.

Midway through the season however, winds blow in such a way that Avis (Patti LuPone) ? the pampered, sexually frustrated wife of a studio head ? becomes the studio head and dynamic changes take place. Despite being a tough, jaded broad immune to emotion, she gradually becomes a champion for other women. Hollywood climbs further and further into unbelievability as the minutes tick by, and by its crescendo, the “losers” get the wins they deserved. Like Glee, Hollywood puts outcasts at the forefront.

But we came to realize that there’s a reason Hollywood’s fantasizing sometimes feel hard to swallow: We are jaded. We’re so accustomed to injustice and the powers that be crushing little people, that challenging the idea of “that’s just the way things are” is threatening, even in revisionist fiction. Scripted drama is, by definition, unrealistic; for factual accounts, we read books or watch documentaries.

Hollywood asks us to think about how we all might be better today had the past been different. It’s odd but daring storytelling, but, hey, if you’ve got the creative freedom and reserves of cash only Netflix can offer, why not experiment? Lord knows there are enough ordinary shows to watch, if that’s what you want.

As Murphy knows firsthand, the TV and movie industries only just started showing any real efforts toward inclusivity; we only?saw a major film starring a black superhero two years ago.?Hollywood?is a retro fairy tale ? a progressive, partly preposterous semi-lucid dream in which the underdogs actually win. It’s unbelievable but sumptuous, just like all fairy tales should be.

Hollywood on Netflix.