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Netflix's highly anticipated new series Hollywood is frothy escapism that lacks real bite.

Hollywood churns out hundreds of stories for us to consume each year, yet it appears that tales of the inner workings of Tinseltown are the ones we’ll never really grow sick of.

This age-old fascination with the people making their way through the Golden Age of cinema is the hook of the new Netflix limited series from the team who brought us Glee and Scream Queens, Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan.

Hollywood follows a group of aspiring actors and filmmakers in post-World War II Hollywood as they try to make it in the movie business— no matter the cost.

“I wanna take the story of Hollywood and give it a rewrite” is a line uttered by a character in the early episodes of Hollywood and it could also double as the tagline for the series.

The show is very much a dramedy that takes real stories and issues from this era, including sexism, homophobia and racism in the screen industry, and imagines them into a new and much more progressive timeline.

Our first entry point to this ‘new’ version of Hollywood is Jack (David Corenswet), a war veteran who longs to be a movie star, despite the fact that he doesn’t have a whole lot of acting talent.

Listen to a review of Netflix’s Hollywood, along with the other top pop culture stories of the day on The Spill. 

In order to make ends meet while he tries to swing his big break into the movies, he takes a job at a car wash The Golden Tip so he can support his pregnant wife (Maude Apatow) but quickly learns that cleaning windshields is not the only thing on his to-do list.

The Golden Tip is run by former silent-film star Ernie (Dylan McDermott) and actually doubles as a brothel, meaning that when Jack’s first client Avis Amberg (Patti LuPone) let’s slip the code phrase “I want to go to Dreamland” he’s immediately whisked away to her hotel room.

It should be noted that while there are a few wild storylines included in Hollywood, this is not one of the fictionalised ones. There really was an infamous petrol-station/brothel operating during this era and this part of the series is based on the memoir of Scotty Bowers called Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars. 

Ernie, our resident petrol-station owner/pimp, also offers employment and a chance at stardom to Archie (Jeremy Pope), a gay black screenwriter trying to sell a script based on the tragic suicide of the actress Peg Entwistle, who leapt to her death from the H in the Hollywoodland sign.

Raymond Ainsley (Darren Criss), a fellow Ernie employee, is an idealistic young director who becomes attached to Archie’s script as they work to sell it to a studio. His main source of interest in the project is that it could serve as a star-making vehicle for his girlfriend, Camille (Laura Harrier).

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As a black actress, Camille is continually typecast in supporting roles alongside white actresses, always used as a comic-relief maid and constantly instructed to read her lines like Gone with the Wind actress Hattie McDaniel.

"Hollywood follows a group of aspiring actors and filmmakers in post-World War II Hollywood as they try to make it in the movie business— no matter the cost." Source: Netflix.

While the idea behind Hollywood is an interesting one, asking us to think about what our world could look like now if marginalised people were rightfully given the opportunity to shape our cinema and pop culture world from this time period, the show does tend to meander a little aimlessly as it attempts to make this point.

One of the strengths of Hollywood is undoubtedly the cast, which also includes Holland Taylor, Samara Weaving, Jim Parsons, Joe Mantello and in a particularly poignant piece of casting Mira Sorvino, who was blacklisted from the movie industry for years due to speaking out against Harvey Weinstein for harassing her.

Despite the cast and its lavish costumes and sets, Hollywood is not as sharp or addictive as past Ryan Murphy offerings such as the American Horror Story anthology, Feud: Bette and Joan and American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace.

But if you're looking for some campy escapism that's rooted in real stories and people from the Golden Age of cinema, then Hollywood is a good weekend binge-watch.

Hollywood is available to watch on Netflix from May 1.


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