Friday, June 11, 2010

The Burgeoning Oeuvre of Mr. Ryan Murphy

| by Allan Stackhouse |

Parental Advisory: This blog discusses adult themes and situations.

When Nip/Tuck first arrived on air, it was groundbreaking in its depiction of graphical surgical content, gratuitous amounts of sex, and plethora of adult themes. It introduced Dr. Christian Troy, one of the hottest characters to ever hit cable. He was irresistible to any woman, a complete jerk (think of much worse words), and had lots of money made from the vanity of Miami's -- and then L.A.'s – finest. His latest series, Glee, could not be anymore different in theme than his previous but still proves to be a smash hit.

Lea Michele's Rachel Berry is Glee's Dr. Christian Troy. Instead of an extremely big di-.... err... ability to attract women, Rachel's got a huge voice. While not as tangible as what Dr. Troy has to offer, Rachel's voice is just a big a draw. Her voice permeates the scenes of Glee. While we're watching, her voice is in the back of our minds, hiding in our ears. For Nip/Tuck, Dr. Troy banging some woman or saying a myriad of creatively insulting things to completely piss off someone was the eventuality we all yearned for.

It's completely understandable and maybe even necessary for Ryan Murphy, the shows' creator, to want to create a lead character that couldn't be anymore different from Dr. Troy. Other than the fact that it's obviously necessary to tone down the sexual nature of a network TV high school show, I'd imagine that Murphy could simply get tired of writing for the same TV MA L S V characters. Despite the obvious differences, there are structural parallels characterisitic of Ryan Murphy: a show unlike anything else on television, unique characters, and engaging drama mixed with comedy.

Nip/Tuck could easily be perceived as complicated and therein lies why some people don't like Glee: it's simplistic nature. Or maybe they just don't like musicals. I would argue that the format is doing its job: attracting a wider audience and taking them out of the drama of a horrible global economy. With a more episodic format, it's easier to pop in and out of an episode but those that avidly catch each episode will get the full benefit of the season. At the high school level, the stakes are a lot more relatable than cosmetic surgery, serial killers, and black market organ sales. Though the stakes aren't life threatening, for these high school kids, they are that high. Those that truly enjoy the show or have sung for some sort of performance understand this. Anyone that's ever just wanted to sing can appreciate -- and welcome, for a ton of people -- the drama that this provides.

If anything Ryan Murphy has proven, it's his talent for creating innovative shows that his audience cannot get enough of. He was quoted in Variety saying, "There's so much on the air right now about people with guns, or sci-fi, or lawyers running around," he said. "This is a different genre, there's nothing like it on the air at the networks and cable. Everything's so dark in the world right now, that's why 'Idol' worked. It's pure escapism." I love that he so casually comments on the originality of his now second break out hit show. For me, it would have been enough to be taken on the 6 year ride through the lives of Dr. Troy and Dr. McNamara with the mystique of Ava Moore, the violence of The Carver, the horror of organ harvesting, the taboo of Eden Lord, and Dr. Troy's dramatic cancer scare but no. Instead, we are now taken on a refreshing and uplifting journey that is stimulates our eyes and ears. Sex is interesting but so is singing a great song. Something in Ryan Murphy's brain understands this almost too well. He creates shows that are missing from the general TV landscape, fills them with rich characters (and now songs), and takes everyone for a wild ride.

This idea of great songs lead to the brilliance of Glee's first season finale. Matthew Morrison comes to the conclusion of returning to the glee club's roots: Journey. New Directions, the glee club we all root for, sang a beautiful medley of Journey songs at the Regionals. Watching the characters dominate their competition was so satisfying and tear-jerking. The juxtaposition of Vocal Adrenaline's “Bohemian Rhapsody” over Quinn's baby delivery was so beautifully dramatic. We are thrilled that Quinn is finally having her baby while cursing that the traitorous Jesse St. James could beat New Directions.

None of my friends have been there since episode one like I was but regardless of the episode or song that brought them into the series, we're all looking forward to the second and recently confirmed THIRD seasons of Glee. Having so many brilliant shows end this year (LOST, Ugly Betty, Nip/Tuck, and Legend of the Seeker), it's wonderful to know that one of my favorite shows isn't going anywhere.

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