I’ll admit it, I pretty much eat up anything Ryan Murphy throws our way like a zoo at lunch time. I’ve seen every episode of every season of American Horror Story twice, reveled in The People Vs. O.J. Simpson, and watched Glee religiously, when it was still good, (looking at you seasons 4-6), but Feud… Feud is on another level.
Feud: Bette and Joan, the 8-episode first season of Murphy’s newest anthology series that takes on some of history’s greatest rivalries, focuses on the backstage battles of legendary actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford during and after the production of their only film together, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? – and completely shreds the world of celebrity as we know it to pieces. We meet the women at a very bleak time in their careers, having become all but unemployable due to Hollywood ageism and sexism. Joan’s agents literally tell her that if she wants work, she’ll have to find it herself. I know of agents who are still this useless today, actually. Point blank: Baby Jane is probably their last chance to revive their careers.
It’s led by an all-star cast of legends in their own right, with Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis, Murphy mainstay, Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland, Kathy Bates as Joan Blondell, Stanley Tucci as studio head Jack Warner and many more. It’s a show that’s easy to get lost in the performances, especially Lange and Sarandon who sometimes have you forgetting that they aren’t really their on-screen counterparts. I might just be obsessed with Jessica Lange. That’s a strong possibility. I mean who can make smoking look cooler than her? I might or might not have a folder on my desktop titled “Jessica Lange Smoking GIF’s,” but I digress. I would be very surprised if Lange or Sarandon didn’t take home an Emmy come this fall, possibly even a Globe. Someone’s going to have to give a knockout performance between now and then to stop either one of them.
Anchored by faithful recreations and powerful performances, the show, at its core, lays bare not only the ugly underbelly of what it takes to make it in Hollywood, but what it takes to stay there — and what some are willing to give up to do so. It also humanizes and sheds new light on two legendary women of the silver screen who were far more alike than they realized, or wanted to admit. It turns a story that we think we know so well on its head and exposes something new and real, but is also a one-liner-slinging-juggernaut for the ages. It’s dirty, glamorous, and trifling, with each episode more enthralling than the last — and that’s exactly what TV needs right now.