Well…Ryan Murphy has done it again!
And by “it” I mean co-written/directed a hilarious, campy, excellently acted pilot of a series with extraordinary promise. It remains to be seen if he and his team can keep the momentum going through the next seven episodes with Bette and Joan, but I have hopes as high as this show’s production value. Time to get to recappin’!
Pluses, or, “I’d like another one.” -Joan Crawford, in reference to her Best Actress Oscar for Mildred Pierce
-I know there’s an Emmy for Outstanding Title Design and/or Title Sequence. Let’s just get that engraved now for Feud. It’s animated. It’s hilarious and playful. It’s the perfect gateway into the dramatic, cartoonish world of 1960’s Hollywood. Plus 40,000 points.
-What ever happened to baby Jessica? Ms. Lange-if-you’re-nasty has pretty much been MIA since the uber unfortunate American Horror Story: (What the) Freak Show. And that’s a damn shame. I had no idea just how much I missed her until she came into frame—eyebrows first. I could pick apart the magnificent minutiae of her performance, but my fingers would fall off from typing so fast and furiously. If there’s anyone we can trust to redefine Joan after Faye “La La Land” Dunaway’s camp-tastic performance in Mommie Dearest made a mockery of her, it’s Lange. Her greatness must be seen to be believed. I’ll share my favorite quote of hers as a sample: “I will have her respect, even if I have to kill the both of us to get it.” Plus 100,000 points.
–Feud is teaching me that my lack of familiarity with Susan Sarandon is a serious character flaw because she’s a force of nature. For one, Sarandon actually looks a lot like Bette Davis. The likeness only becomes more uncanny any time she moves or speaks. If looks and sarcastic remarks could kill, this show would be called The People v. Bette Davis: American Crime Story. I LOVE how she exclusively refers to Joan by her birth name, Lucille. I LOVE that the Oscar winning makeup team behind Suicide Squad adapted their work on Jared Leto’s Joker for Sarandon’s Baby Jane. I LOVE absolutely everything about her performance. Sorry, Veronica Lodge from Riverdale, I may have found my new spirit animal. Plus 99,999 points.
-Kiernan Shipka! It is quite the upgrade going from being Betty Draper/January Jones’ daughter to being Bette Davis/Susan Sarandon’s daughter. Plus 1,700 points.
-The production design and costume design for this show is simply out of this world. Greatest hits include literally everything. Plus 25, 504 points, one for every feather in Hedda Hopper’s hats.
-It seems like FX loves to advertise the premieres and finales of their prestige shows as having “limited commercial interruption”. I don’t think I appreciated that more than I did for this first episode of Feud. I felt that, during the odd 72 minute run time, all the breaks came at logical and tonally appropriate points. Good job, crew. Plus 2,200 points.
Total: 269,403 points/Joan’s 2 supple, lemony elbows
Minuses, or, Fantastic Exposition Fairies and Where to Find Them
-Good thing that the rampant sexism that actresses had to endure in the 60’s is a thing of the past, ammirite. *phone rings* “Hello… Hi, Emma Watson! What’s that? Everyone in Hollywood and beyond is still sexist and terrible. Thanks so much for reminding just as I was writing my recap for Feud: Bette & Joan… By the way, I’m so pumped for Beauty and the Beast. Yeah…mhmmm… Talk to you later. Cheers!” *hangs up phone* Minus 2,000,000 points.
-When we first meet Joan, she’s drinking her sorrows at the 1961 Golden Globes while watching Marilyn Monroe sashay up to the stage to accept her award. Monroe is of course a legendary sex symbol and comedienne, but the actress who portrays her here only validates Joan’s disgust. She manages to find the one bad wig on the whole Feud set. And then there’s her voice… I’d liken it to Minnie Mouse with emphysema. It’s an insult to Marilyn and all the drag queens that have done her justice in clubs around the world. Where were Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty when you needed them? Minus 60 points, which should be enough in dollars to buy that actress the season one and two DVDs of Smash.
-Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Catherine Zeta-Jones and Kathy Bates. They’re both Oscar winners. They’re both perfect. I don’t really know who Olivia de Havilland and Joan Blondell were, but I’ve come to this show ready to learn a lot about Hollywood history. What I’m not looking forward to is listening to Cath and Kath (in separate 1978 interviews) read me excerpts from Bette and Joan’s Wikipedia pages. There wasn’t a ton of that this week, and I hope there’s even less next week. I also hope that Zeta-Jones’ inclusion here means that she’ll become a regular member of the Murphy TV theatre troupe. How cool would it be to see her one day share the screen with Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Lady Gaga? Minus 2,000 points.
-Men. Stanley Tucci’s Jack L. Warner was a pig. Alfred Molina’s Robert Aldrich was forgettable. I totally understand Bette and Joan’s apathy towards their husbands after meeting them. Let’s get Evan Peters up in here, stat. Or maybe a Prince Eric look-a-like for Murphy to objectify. It’s no surprise that women dominate this show, but it’s a lot less fun when the men they’re up against are garbage. Minus 6,000 points.
Total: 2,008,060 points/1 shocking use of the c-word
“They hated each other, and we loved them for it.” The thesis state of Feud is definitely firmly supported by the pilot. I’m hungry for more. If you are too, please stay tuned for the next episode of the show and PCI’s next recap where Nina will join in on the bitchy fun! Until then, friends!