Many viewers knew Ryan Murphy (Indianapolis, 56 years old) with ‘Nip/Tuk, a coup de scalpel’ (2003-2010). It was not the first series in which he participated. ‘Popular’ (1999-2001), the adolescent fiction set in the Jacqueline Kennedy institute, which addressed the eternal conflict between the popular class and the marginalized, is also his creation. But, unlike the first, the story about Sean McNamara and Christian Troy, two friends -one a family man, the other a fitter and a viva la vida- who open a plastic surgery practice in Miami, yes collected the signs of identity of what would eventually become an excessive, prolific and tireless creator, capable of moving like a fish in water through soap opera melodrama, drama, comedy, musical or terror, always playing with the surprise and caressing the extremes, giving rise to both light and entertaining productions and reflective and almost solemn fictions.
Christian Troy and Sean McNamara in ‘Nip/Tuck’.
Murphy took in ‘Nip/Tuck’ many of the ideas that ‘American Beauty’ already pointed out, Sam Mendes’ debut film about the crisis of the forties – personal dissatisfaction, the search for happiness, desire, paternal love or self-liberation – and stretched them to unsuspected limits. Issues such as envy, jealousy, addictions or the family were erected at the center of a story that moved away from the politically correct, thanks to the strange characters who approached the consultation and with whom they touched on such tricky topics as incest, pedophilia or bestiality, always with acid and corrosive humor as an excellent lubricant. All to make it clear that, surprise surprise, Sean and Christian weren’t actually that far apart from each other.
Then there would be hits like ‘Glee’ (2009-2015), centered on the New Directions choir of the William McKinley High School, in Ohio. With an inclusive and very very charismatic cast and the music – by October 2011, they had released more than 36 million singles and eleven million albums worldwide – and adolescence as ‘leit movit’, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, regular collaborators, took the opportunity to delve into issues such as love relationships, sexuality and discrimination, with special attention to the LGTBI world. Almost contemporary is ‘American Horror Story’ (2011-), an anthological fiction still on the air, in which each season works as a ‘soft’ horror miniseries. He would repeat the scheme with ‘America Crime Story’ (2016-2021), another anthology series in which, again, each season focused on some of the most notorious real crimes and criminals in the United States. Later would come ‘Feud’ (2017-), which addresses the historic rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, played by the wonderful Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange -muse, along with Sarah Paulson, of the creator-; ‘Pose’ (2018-2021), about the Afro-American and Latino LGBTQ+ cultural scene in New York in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and even procedural fiction -that is, with auto-conclusive chapters that repeat over and over again the same scheme- like ‘9-1-1’ (2018-2022) or its ‘spin off’, ‘9-1-1: Lone Star’, with Rob Lowe in front. There were also setbacks then like ‘The New Normal’ (2012-2013) or ‘Scream Queens’ (2015-2016), which gave us the opportunity to see Jamie Lee Curtis behind the scenes, as director of the episode ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel ‘, but it seemed like almost everything Murphy touched turned to gold.
The cast of the first season of ‘Glee’.
With this resume behind him, it made sense for Netflix to try to tie the creator down. He already did it in August 2017, when he was clear that Marvel productions would go on to swell the Disney + catalog and that superhero stories were slipping through his hands. He then acquired the Millarworld comics publisher, founded by Mark Millar, responsible for titles such as ‘Kick-Ass’ or ‘Kingsman’, with the intention of saving junk, although his first attempt, ‘Jupiter’s Legacy’, has turned out to be a fiasco. A few days later, Shonda Rhimes, creator of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, signed an agreement with Netflix for around 150 million dollars. Ryan Murphy did it a few months later, in February 2018. The producer, writer and director agreed to five years of exclusivity for around 300 million dollars. Of course, the contract, which will be fulfilled in July of next year, did not affect the fictions that Murphy already had underway with 20th Century Fox to create content for Fox and FX.
From middle to middle
Unlike Rhimes, who already triumphed with his first production for Netflix, ‘The Bridgertons’ (2020-), and stood out again with ‘Who is Anna?’ (2022), luck has not been with Murphy in his series for the platform. Had the big red N ruined much of his fortune by taking over Murphy’s services exclusively? Everything seemed to indicate yes. Neither ‘The Politician’ nor ‘Ratched’ fulfilled the expectations of the video on demand service. The first, which delivered two seasons between 2019 and 2020, followed in the footsteps of Payton Hobart, a student with the ambition of president since he was 7 years old. Fiction did not take itself very seriously, as did the critics and the public, who forgot about it sooner than usual. The second, on the other hand, did cause a stir. Let’s see, a prequel about the nursing home nurse in which ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ was set, which the magnetic Sarah Paulson was going to embody, had everything to succeed, but the reception ended up being rather lukewarm and although two seasons were signed, still not a peep has been said about the second.
‘Hollywood’ (2020) and ‘Halston’ (2021) were the next miniseries that he delivered to the platform, in addition to two feature films, the disappointing ‘The Prom’ which, in addition to producing, he also directed, and ‘The boys in the band’ , which only produced. From ‘Hollywood’, the fiction in which Murphy delved into the film industry of the forties to talk about issues such as inequality, he did not like an approach that he was frivolous. ‘Halston’, on the other hand, with Ewan McGregor playing the fashion designer, did find more or less unanimous support from critics, but Murphy was resisted by the public.
He has found it now, nine months before the exclusivity contract with Netflix expires, and he has done so with the sordid ‘Dahmer – Monster: the story of Jeffrey Dahmer’, a suffocating fiction that recounts the journey of this serial killer who He ended the lives of at least seventeen young people between 1978 and 1991 and who also practiced necrophilia and cannibalism with his victims. Last week, this sober and chilling series, far from the usual excesses of the creator and considerably less gore than is assumed, surpassed ‘The Bridgertons’ and was placed, with 701 million hours watched, as the third most watched series in Netflix history, only surpassed by ‘The Squid Game’ and the fourth season of ‘Stranger Things’.
His streak does not seem to end there. ‘Vigilante’, also created by Murphy and Brennan, premiered four days ago on the platform and has been in charge of unseating ‘Dahmer’, which in countries like the United States had been at the top for three weeks without interruption. Starring Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale, the fiction is one of the disturbing ones and focuses on a family that begins to live a real nightmare shortly after moving into the house of their dreams. Two hits in a row. The change in perception around the agreement signed between the platform and Murphy is such that the creator himself has celebrated it on his Instagram account with a “that moment when your new series replaces your other series as number one in the United States.” Joined”.
As if that were not enough, in many countries, in the movies section, ‘Mr. Harrigan’s Telephone’, a film produced by the author, along with Blumhouse, based on a novel by Stephen King, has risen to the top. It has added 35 million hours viewed in its premiere, an interesting figure, but it is expected to grow as the days go by.
With these three hits in the pipeline, Netflix can write off the deal it signed with Murphy four years ago now. The question that the entire industry is asking right now is whether, based on these results, the platform will renew the contract with the creator, as it did with Shonda Rhimes, in July of last year, after the excellent results of ‘The Bridgertons ‘. It wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable. In the end, it is clear that Murphy, as in his series, is a type of extreme.
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