Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week, Jill Watson has given Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood on Netflix a binge-watch, Caemeron Crain recommends the upcoming I Know This Much is True on HBO, and John Bernardy digs into another Twin Peaks podcast with In Our House Now.
Jill: You know the classic story of the farm girl who packs up, goes to Hollywood to be a star, and finds out that she has to sleep her way to the top, relying on the kindness of sugar daddies to put her star on the Walk of Fame. What would happen if we flipped that upside down?
Netlix’s Hollywood flips that trope all the way upside down, bounces it around like a rubber ball, and lets it zip all over the stucco walls of the fictionalized version of Hollywood just after the Second World War. Instead of a girl, we follow a naive young man, fresh out of the War in Anzio, who gets his big break only after turning tricks out of an auto service station, relying on the pleasure of Ace Studios’ owner’s wife for casting favors. A beautiful black actress also makes her way to the top through sheer, undeniable talent, all in the face of relentless racism. A fictionalized version of Rock Hudson initially had to pimp himself out, but eventually finds love with a brilliant black screenwriter, bursting their way out of the Hollywood closet with style and grace.
We get to see Queen Latifah as Hattie McDaniel, who in real life was not allowed to sit in the theater the year she won an Oscar for Gone With the Wind, instructing Laura Harrier’s Camille Washington to demand her spot in the front row at the Oscars.
Each character in this fantastic story hammers home the point that representation is not just important, it’s essential. Representation in the media inspires pride, it inspires people to cast off the shackles of shame and rise to their full potential, despite the boos and whatever expectations society has for them.
And my GODDESS! Patti LuPone! Let’s talk about Patti LuPone. She’s been a boss lady all along, and her role as Avis Amberg will not let anyone forget it! This entire cast acts so well together you’d swear they run together, as a glammed up pack of pure talent, to Musso and Frank’s every night.
With incredible, nuanced performances by Holland Taylor, David Corenswet, Darin Criss, Joe Mantello, Dylan McDermott, Jake Picking, Jeremy Pope, Jim Parsons, Mira Sorvino, and more, this series had every opportunity to become something magical. It grabbed hold of each of those opportunities, stuck a toothpick through them, and used them as olives to stir those Musso and Frank’s dirty martinis.