Television: Feud, "Pilot"

I've watched my share of Ryan Murphy: some seasons of American Horror Story, the first season of Scream Queens, American Crime Story (which he produced and directed some of but didn't write), and I did try Glee way back when it first started. In any case, I think Murphy has a definite brand, though I'd be hard pressed to name it. Maybe it's more of a spectrum? From glossy to gritty, from howlingly ridiculous to . . . slightly less ridiculous.

Given that spectrum, Feud fits squarely in the Murphy mold. It archly and colorfully examines the feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford at the time of their making Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. Their rivalry is Hollywood legend, of course, and quite vivid at a time when a certain amount of class was expected from the film elite. (Made the feuds all the more delicious, though—like a luscious dessert. Nowadays Twitter feuds make these things less of a treat.)

In the first episode of this mini, Joan Crawford (played by Murphy favorite Jessica Lange) is nearly bankrupt and searching for the right property (I'm speaking in the film sense rather than real estate) to restore her to Oscar glory. The scripts being offered her don't do her justice, at least not to her way of thinking, so she raids bookstores and finds Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. After reading it, she takes it to Robert Aldrich and promises him she'll also deliver a perfect co-star. She chases Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) down on Broadway while Aldrich shops the story and strong arms Jack Warner (Stanley Tucci) into financing.

Of course there are problems even before shooting begins. Joan gets a glimpse of Bette's contract and sees Bette is getting more per week. And so it begins.

Since Murphy never met a frame story he didn't like, there's one here too: the conceit is that some kind of documentary is being filmed, and so people like Olivia de Havilland (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Joan Blondell (Kathy Bates, another of Murphy's regulars) give tidbits of backstory about Joan and Bette.

Certainly this is an entertaining show and I'll continue to watch. So far it's not outrageous, but I'm sure—just based on the actual history of the subject matter—it's building to that. I will say I'm way more excited about the prospect of a Charles v Diana story line next season. In the meantime, I'll enjoy this one. There is, after all, a reason I keep watching Ryan Murphy shows. For the most part, they serve up the very thing(s) he promises. It's just a matter of deciding which of those things I want. In the case of Feud, yeah, I think there's room on my plate for a little.

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