Emily Clark

TV Series Review

“Movies don’t just show us how the world is, they show us how the world can be,” says Raymond Ainsley, a half-Filipino director in post-World War II Hollywood.

Indeed, with just a simple script rewrite, a few carefully chosen actors and actresses and the bravery to go through with it, Ainsley and his cohorts believe they could make a film that would change the world.

Could is the key word there, though. Because when it comes to Hollywood, filmmakers have a choice: do whatever it takes to make a difference or do whatever it takes to make it big.

Should’ve, Could’ve, Would’ve

Raymond wants to be a director. That’s not much of a problem. Sure, given that he’s living in a time before even baseball was integrated, his mixed-race heritage could conceivably be an issue. But he’s half-Asian, and he can easily pass as a white man. However, his desire to cast his African-American girlfriend, Camille, in a leading role could spell doom for his career and danger for her.

Meanwhile, Jack is out to prove that he’s more than just another pretty face, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes (including selling his body as a male prostitute) to become an actor. But when he finds out that his wife is expecting twins, his decision to change and be a better father and husband starts to interfere with his progress in the industry.

Archie aspires to be a screenwriter. In fact, he’s already managed to sell a screenplay. But because he’s black, the people who bought the script want to substitute another writer’s name to protect the film from being boycotted. He’s also gay (which really doesn’t help his case) and works alongside Jack as a male prostitute as well—all adding more reasons for the studio to keep his name out of the credits.

Despite these hardships, these young go-getters want their share of Tinseltown’s glitter. They know the impact Hollywood can have on people. They’ve felt it themselves. “Every time I leave the picture show, I feel better than I did walking in,” Jack says.

But they also believe the industry can do more than just make people feel better: It can make them be better—using their own definition of what “better” means. They know from first-hand experience that the cookie-cutter image Hollywood portrays in its films doesn’t represent what those same filmmakers believe behind the scenes. And they’re willing to put it all on the line to make a difference in the industry they love so much.

Rewriting the Story of Tinseltown

Hollywood, brainchild of Glee and American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy, quite literally rewrites the story of Hollywood. It aims to show how movies could have changed the cultural worldview a lot sooner if a few executives had been willing to fight for those changes. And while this is quite moving in some respects, it’s also quite messy in others.

The show draws attention to the mistreatment of people of color in Hollywood that many would say has continued even to modern times. (Lest we forget, 2016’s Academy Awards were boycotted by many in the filmmaking industry for the failure to nominate a single person of color across the four acting categories and launched the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.) It rewrites history to show a black man, a black woman and an Asian woman all receiving Oscars for their work on a film nearly half a century before its time.

It also shines a light on what can happen when people work together and pull each other up instead of scrambling over one another in their desire to get to the top. Jack is able to become a successful actor without having to further compromise his morals. Avis (the wife of a studio executive) becomes the first female director of a studio and reconciles with her estranged daughter. People find true love, discover the courage to be themselves, and (perhaps most importantly) overcome deep-seated bigotries that have pervaded a decades-old industry.

But again, Hollywood (both the place and the show) is messy.

The miniseries deals pretty heavily with prostitution. These scenes leave little to the imagination as we watch several montages of fully nude people having sex (including same-sex couples).

Meanwhile, a talent manager uses his influence within the industry to manipulate and take advantage of his male clients. But rather than portray him as a full-on predator, Hollywood turns him into a sympathetic victim—his behavior the result of him having to remain closeted. Indeed, the show seems to indicate that all of its gay characters (including Rock Hudson, a real-life actor who became the first celebrity to die of complications from AIDS) would have lived much happier lives if they had been allowed to openly engage in these relationships. Though considering their use of prostitution, it’s likely that they would’ve had issues either way.

Language is incredibly foul with multiple uses of the f-word and s-word, at least one use of the n-word and frequent uses of the derogatory term “f-g.” God’s and Christ’s names are also often taken in vain and are sometimes paired with the expletive “d–mit.”

People drink and smoke throughout the show (in fact, it’s rare to see someone not doing this), and one episode also shows a woman doing cocaine.

But the final nail in the coffin, as it were, is the discussion surrounding Peg Entwhistle, a real-life actress who tragically died by suicide in 1932 when she jumped off the Hollywoodland sign. Ray, Archie and the rest set out to make a biopic about Peg, hoping to illuminate how Hollywood’s harsh standards drove a woman to her death. And while this goal has the best of intentions, Peg’s story often takes the backseat to the desires of the people telling it. A personal tragedy becomes a platform for a public crusade, and loses sight of the person—and reality—in the process. So, while this fanciful story of Hollywood is inspiring at times, it’s also not true. And combined with the distinctly TV-MA way that it’s told, it’s really quite the disappointment.

Episode Reviews

May 1, 2020: “Hooray for Hollywood”

Home after serving in the war, wanna-be actor Jack Castello tries to get his big break in Hollywood.

We see a montage of sex scenes featuring fully nude couples (including some same-sex ones). Jack admits to having cheated on his wife while on leave and flashes back to the instance. (We see a woman’s breasts and a topless man as they have sex.) Jack undresses (but keeps his underwear on) and starts to kiss and grope a woman. Fledgling screenwriter Archie and another man undress (keeping their underwear on) before kissing and groping each other. Two couples (including a same-sex couple) have oral sex (nothing critical is seen). A man puts his hand inside of another man’s pants. Several men in a gay club watch a video of nude men exercising. (We see the film, too.)

Archie justifies prostituting himself out to men since he was going to have sex anyway. A man brags about the size of his genitals. People talk about a bisexual man. Jack is temporarily fired when he refuses to have sex with another man. A woman talks about getting pregnant after getting drunk and having sex with a man she met at a bar. She says she married the man but now has sex with prostitutes since her husband doesn’t love her anymore.

We hear about a woman who died by suicide. Jack threatens another man with a fake gun. A man faints. People smoke and drink alcohol throughout the episode. We hear several uses of the f-word and s-word as well as “b–ch,” “d–n” and “h—.” God’s name is also misused, sometimes paired with “d–mit.” Someone is called a “gorgon.” A woman says she was rejected in Hollywood for being too “Jewey.”

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Emily Clark
Emily Clark

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

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