Monday, September 21, 2020

TV: RATCHED is wretched

No one survives RATCHED -- not even Sharon Stone. 




RATCHED is the latest series on NETFLIX as part of the streamer's deal with producer Ryan Murphy.  A lot of The Water Cooler Set are telling you that Ryan created the show (click here for Linda Holmes getting it wrong at NPR).  Are you surprised that they're lying?  We're not.  The "created by" title card at the beginning of each of the eight episodes notes the series was created by Evan Romansky.  


If the title card's not good enough for you, note this description on Evan's Twitter feed, "Creator/Co-Executive Producer of RATCHED coming to NETFLIX on September 18th. Cincinnati born and raised. Ohio U and Loyola Marymount alum."


We don't hate Ryan Murphy and that's one reason we want to get the credit -- and the blame -- right.


RATCHED should never have been made.  Blame it on the laughable Academy Nicholl Fellowships presented by the Academy Awards.  It's a notoriously bad program that's the laugh of the industry.  If you can write about a pedophile who goes on a bender, you too can win the fellowship, the joke goes, provided you are a man.   It's not about quality, it's not about story telling ability, it's about who pushed the envelope.  It's a project that started with good intentions but that, as the years passed, went notoriously wrong.  


Evan Romansky is the latest semi-talented fool deluded into thinking he can write.  


Of course, a real writer wouldn't be trying to rip off the work of others.  RATCHED is a 'prequel' -- ripping off the nurse created by Ken Kesey in his 1962 novel ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST and the 1975 film that followed.  Louise Fletcher won an Academy Award for playing the character in the film.  Not one of the Academy's great choices -- and that was true long before Fletcher hit someone with her car (though injured, Officer Matthew Bennett was able to continue his career in law enforcement up until last July when he retired).  Ratched was a one-dimensional bitch.  The following year, Faye Dunaway would win the Academy Award for playing another bitch, Diana in the film NETWORK, but Faye managed to add layers to Diana.  


Ratched was always a bitch -- even in the novel -- and always a one dimensional bitch.  Ken Kesey didn't like women and especially didn't like women with power over men.  

There are reasons to reimagine a previous work.  Jean Rhys taking Charlotte Bronte's JANE EYRE and creating the prequel WIDE SARGOSSA SEA to develop and advance the first wife managed to both reject colonialism and deepen the story.  


That doesn't happen with the NETFLIX series.  Evan's 'revealed' that for his reimanging, he needed Ratched to be 'harmed by sex.'  In less enlightened times, he would have called her 'frigid.'  So she's a cold bitch.  Getting the idea that Evan Romansky needs to live a little more before he writes again?  You're are exactly right.  But if he couldn't turn out a piece of woman hatred, how would he attract Ryan and NETFLIX and noted feminist hater Michael Douglas?  He wouldn't.


Why did women participate in this garbage?  Sadly, that includes someone we have immense respect for: Rosanna Arquette.  No one survives, this garbage.  No one.


Sharon Stone certainly deserved better.  She tries to toss off the poorly written dialogue with a dry wit but no one could make it pass for wit.  With nothing to play, other than concern that her monkey might smoke her cigarette, she just comes across as forever on the verge of a snit fit and the only thing worse than her performance is her appearance.  Please tell us that's a wig because otherwise they ruined Sharon Stone's hair by bleaching it.  It looks like ugly straw.  


Sharon can take comfort in the fact that she's barely and rarely on camera.  Sarah Paulson is uncomfortably onscreen way too much.  This is the worst acting she's done since STUDIO YADA YADA.  It's awful acting.  There's no role there so she falls back on the same tics of past performances.  But what enhanced a strongly written role in the past, does nothing this go round.  It may wrongly make people think Louise Fletcher is a great actress.  She's a so-so actress (had either Julie Christie or Goldie Hawn been nominated as Best Actress for SHAMPOO, Louise would never have won the award -- it was the weakest choice of nominees ever in the year she won).  Sarah's a better actress than Louise and she's a better actress than this bad series deserves.


People go on about the look of the show -- The Water Cooler Set does.  What are they talking about?  The bad costumes?  The same era was costumed better in the HBO mini-series MILDRED PIERCE.  The look being discussed should address the look of the actors.  Why are women required to be sexy and sex objects when Ryan's again cast a series with unattractive men?  


Jon Jon Briones has no charisma.  Charlie Carver is a good looking man but, like Joan Crawford in A WOMAN'S FACE, his face is disfigured (from the war).  If a man's going to have a sex scene and be seen repeatedly in his underwear, how about he has a good body?  Corey Stall doesn't even have a good face.  Vincent D'Onofrio is lucky he's a man -- a woman his size wouldn't be working.  And then there's Finn Wittrock who looks like Mitt Romney.  Junior changed his first name to "Finn" so he wouldn't have to be billed as Junior (his father Peter Wittrock Senior has been an actor for decades).  It's a pity he couldn't change his face.  A lantern jaw, a forehead that never seems to end, he's got to be one of the ugliest men in a lead role on a TV show right now and yet we're supposed to find his character sexual -- when he wants Sarah's Ratchet to jerk him off, when Rachet sets him up with a gorgeous nurse, when . . .  Wittrock is so unattractive, even his ass is ugly.  (In fairness to Finn on that, it may be the period pants that make his ass look so bad.)


Ryan Murphy is a gay man.  He's attracted to other men.  Was he not present for casting sessions?  Did not one get footage of these men to find out how they'd appear onscreen?


What made it onscreen is an embarrassment.  If anyone manages to make it out of the show with almost zero embarrassment, it's Cynthia Nixon.  With better writing and better direction, her character might have emerged as more than a scowl but she commits to that and she makes Gwendolyn Briggs come to life, especially in the under-written moment when Gwendolyn learns Ratched has slept Charles Wainwright.


There was never a reason to make this nonsense into a series.  Evan Romansky never had an actual thought to put onscreen.  The clue of how worthless and shallow this project is should have been in the decision to advertise it with a trailer featuring the song "All That Jazz." If there's anything worse than ripping off the work of others because you can't create your own memorable character, it's ripping off a great song that has nothing to do with your hideous TV show.

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