In life, there is little as universally infuriating and communally satisfying as having a common enemy. A villain we love to hate, a villain we love to hate together. In the lives of gay women who love TV, that villain of late has been Ryan Murphy. Though, to be honest, him and us, we go way back. Back to Popular. Back to Nip/Tuck.
So now, with Season 3 of Glee in the books and many (though very pointedly not all) of our McKinley High graduates stepping into the future with freshly printed high school diplomas in hand, what can we expect from Mr. Murphy moving forward?
He gave a wide-reaching interview to New York magazine’s Vulture earlier this week in which he discussed his many shows (Glee, American Horror Story and The New Normal) and other projects he has in the works. He also took the opportunity to further enrage Brittana fans – but more on that later.
The interview addressed Murphy’s reputation for opening big and then fizzling out on shows, boring of his projects as they wore on and constant multitasking. Where should we begin? Well let’s just start with Glee because, well, it’s Glee.
Murphy said he is excited about writing multi-year arcs for the characters and knows exactly how Rachel Berry will end up – even what the last scene will be. And, in case you’ve been living under a Slushee machine, he repeats that all the series regular will be back in some form next season, though not necessarily for each of the 22 episodes. Just don’t expect anymore Glee concert tours with the original cast. That ship done sailed.
With all the regulars coming back in some small way, Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly called next season a “creative renaissance” for the show at the upfronts. Murphy says we can expect it to be very pop-culture based (starting out with another big Britney Spears episode) and have all the characters start over as underdogs. Will Schuester doesn’t get married. (Sorry, Emma). Sue Sylvester needs a new nemesis. The show will “be very different” with “less characters than we’ve ever had,” which Murphy deems “a good thing.”
Sounds not so terrible, right? Well, remember before the third season Murphy promised the show would go back to basics with fewer tribute episodes and no big guest stars. So, you know, let’s talk again in 22 episodes and see how that all works out.
But what about that broken pre-season promise from a year ago about the tributes and the stars? Well, Murphy said he tried, he really did. But Murphy said Fox’s Reilly wasn’t a big fan of the show’s direction. And the fans weren’t big fans of the show’s direction either.
As Murphy told Vulture:
Yes, Brittana fans, he mentioned you. No, Brittana fans, it wasn’t in a particularly flattering way.
But then, he’s not particularly flattering to any of the show’s viewership. Yes, that was a bite you just felt on your hands, Glee fans. Perhaps we should just stop feeding him. As he said:
So in other words, he likes your enthusiasm, but get off his lawn!
Oh, and because the show will now move to Thursday nights, expect there to be a lot of really annoying The X Factor tie-ins and possibly some more mature writing because it’s no longer in the family hour of 8 p.m.. If that means the gays get to kiss more than once a semester I’m all for it. But I’m certainly not holding my breath.
Moving on to Murphy and his Glee co-creator Brad Falchuk’s other show, big changes are afoot for American Horror Story next season, too. The show will reboot with many new characters and a totally new setting. Jessica Lange will be back, but others will join the cast as the show takes on an anthology/miniseries format for each season.
Murphy told Vulture that Season 2 will be set in the 1960s with Lange’s character running an institution for the criminally insane. Well, just let him tell you about the premise:
Normally a show that featured such talented female leads and a lesbian character would have me super excited. But coming from Murphy, I’m one part pretty excited, two parts very concerned.
Because if you want a quick history of lesbian/bisexual characters on Ryan Murphy shows they go: does not much as a background mom character (Popular), has a brief lesbian fling only to end up with a man (Nip/Tuck), dies (Nip/Tuck), sleeps with one male lead and gets artificially inseminated by the other (Nip/Tuck), flunks senior year and no one seems to care (Glee), forgoes a free education to live in New York (Glee) and makes out with a maid and then dies an infamous death as the Black Dahlia (American Horror Story).
Now, Murphy’s new upcoming show The New Normal doesn’t appear to have any lesbian characters in it yet. But it is co-created by a real, live gay lady in the form of out Glee writer/producer Ali Adler. And the premise is certainly gay. The half-hour comedy focuses on a gay couple (The Book of Mormon’s Andrew Rannells and The Hangover’s Justin Bartha) who use a surrogate to have a baby. Ellen Barkin plays the surrogate’s ultra-conservative, homophobic grandma.
Murphy also told Vulture he already had a three-year plan for that show, saying:
So does that mean there will be a gimp suit and show tunes?
The story is apparently somewhat autobiographical as Murphy and his partner are engaged and talking about starting a family. He said he was interested particularly in writing Barkin’s conservative character, who he called “a modern-day Archie Bunker,” because “that voice is not on television right now.”
Um, while that voice may not be on the TV shows Murphy watches, it is definitely on TV. Have you watched C-SPAN for any length of time? How about Fox News?
Murphy says ultimately he wants The New Normal to be a tribute to the Norman Lear shows of past.
Having seen the preview trailer, the show certainly has potential. But that’s the maddening thing about Ryan Murphy, all his shows do. Whether any of them can follow through and reach their potential, well, that remains very much to be seen. And whether he can finally write a happy, healthy non-haphazard ending for a lesbian character is entirely another.