By Ashley Wright
Ryan Murphy, like Shonda Rhimes, is one of those TV producers that seems to constantly be coming out with new hit shows. While all of Murphy’s shows have a distinct feel/aesthetic to them, they are each unique enough so as to offer something for everyone. Whether it be one of his well-known hits or his more recent knockouts, there’s no better time than spooky season to go on a Ryan Murphy Cinematic Universe binge.
Murphy’s shows can be categorized by two main aspects: the stylization and the actors. As I already mentioned, each of Murphy’s shows are directed and styled in such a way that you feel transported into whatever scene/time period the work is focusing on. Even the modern-day shows have that signature Murphy feel to them. Ryan Murphy is also known for recycling his actors, both within his shows and between them. Sarah Paulson, Darren Criss, Evan Peters, and tons of other names have popped up in several of Murphy’s work and each one of them does a phenomenal job playing a wide array of characters.
Murphy’s first sensation, and probably the biggest outlier of the group, was Glee. Set in an American high school, Glee follows a group of teenagers in their school’s glee club. The show is known for its dramatic storylines and over-the-top musical numbers. While it’s probably the most tame of the Murphy shows, it was certainly a cultural moment when it was on the air.
Murphy’s next hit was a complete 180 from the musical world of Glee—American Horror Story. Having gone on for 9 seasons and with more on the way, American Horror Story has given life to all hosts of bizarre characters and storylines. Each season deals with new characters, in terrifying situations, across several time periods. Fan favorites get to explore new roles, as each season reuses many actors from the previous ones, and it is theorized that all the seasons are connected as part of one over-arching storyline. American Horror Story is not for the faint of heart, as it never shies away from gore, violence, and down-right disturbing scenes. (TW) Season 1 alone tackles storylines of suicide, murder, and rape. But if you’re up for it, it is truly one of the best horror TV shows around.
Slightly less graphic than American Horror Story is American Crime Story. This is an anthology series that focuses on some of the biggest true crime cases in American history. With two seasons currently out, the show has portrayed the real-life events of the OJ Simpson murder trial and the assassination of Gianni Versace. While this show is based on real events, Murphy’s trademark style and overall tone is carried throughout the series and some of the horrors of the real-world are expertly conveyed.
In what could be considered a return to his roots, Murphy has also produced a show for Netflix called The Politician, starring Broadway star Ben Platt. While The Politician is also set in a modern-day American high school and doesn’t deal with any elements of horror or the supernatural, this show is nothing like Glee. Instead, The Politician follows a cutthroat race between two teenagers for the position of student class president. At times, the show can feel a bit overly dramatic (with side storylines including a character inspired by the true case of Gypsy Rose and what appears to be an assassination attempt by a fellow student), but the two seasons available so far are nonetheless fun to watch.
In another turn away from the horror genre, Murphy recently just released the mini-series Hollywood to Netflix. This show is set in the golden era of a post-World War II Hollywood and follows a ragtag group of actors, writers, and filmmakers as they try to make it big. While the show is definitely glamorized, it also deals with the darker side of the film industry including racism, homophobia, and sexual abuse. With several characters being completely fictional and others being based on real iconic Hollywood figures, the show is a perfect blend of reality and fiction.
Finally, Murphy’s latest mini-series that was just released on Netflix—Ratched. Ratched is a prequel to the award-winning film One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and follows the infamous character Nurse Ratched. Set in a psychiatric asylum in 1947, the show is just as disturbing and gory as Murphy’s previous works. So far the show has received rave reviews and seems to be a perfect pre-Halloween release.
Some honorable mentions are Murphy’s other works: Scream Queens, Feud: Bette and Joan, Pose, 9-1-1, and future releases (Including the movie Boys in the Band, and a rumored mini-series inspired by serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer). These shows all vary in their levels of goriness, when they are set, and if they follow real or fictionalized people, but they all have one thing in common—they are all great works of TV.