TV review: Ratched
It is gorgeous to look at, the colours pop, and there is so much teal it could have been renamed Horrorfest At Tiffany's. Plenty of great actors are involved too.
But that is about all psychological thriller series Ratched – currently streaming on Netflix – has going for it.
The Trojan Horse in the room is that this is meant to be a prequel to the classic (and absolute must-see) 1975 multi-Oscar-winning One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.
Supposedly, it answers the question of how Nurse Ratched (played here by Sarah Paulson) became the cold, passive-aggressive authoritarian of a psychiatric hospital, often eager to dispense electroshock therapy.
But not every iconic cinematic villain needs an extended origin story. Are they nice? No. Job done, no further questions thank you.
Ratched bears so little relation to the Nurse Ratched many will be familiar with, you have to wonder why show creator Evan Romansky or producer Ryan Murphy so flagrantly dismissed the film or its source novel.
What we get is a highly stylised fairy tale designed to deliver the answer that Mildred Ratched was always twisted - though here, the makers appear to have her mixed up with Norman Bates or maybe Jason Voorhees' mum.
That there isn't much of an arc – no idealist nurse who gradually and tragically loses her humanitarian values, for example.
Nope. She arrives as a sociopath and possible psychopath.
Even with its depiction of brutal, outdated psychiatric therapy, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest was not a horror story.
So here we are again – as with other recent origin projects – where we have to ask if this is a separate idea pushed out under the cover of an existing property. While Murphy has plenty of clout, it's still easier to sell a story about a psychotic psychiatric nurse if there's a familiar name to peg it on.
This may as well have been the prefix of Murphy's American Horror Story series, not least because Murphy favourite Paulson leads the cast, which includes Cynthia Nixon, Sharon Stone and Vincent D'Onofrio, to name a few.
They all vamp around this late 1940s saturated pastel scenario, peppered with wince-inducing body horror and severely repressed sexuality.
The sad truth is that despite all the talent on display, the eight 50-minute episodes of season one soon become a chore.
Compared the source material, where you believed in the characters – and crucially bought into that Nurse Ratched's brand of bland evil – here, we're dealing in caricatures.
It is littered with eye-roll moments, scenes that may well have seemed clever at the time.
It would take a very strong love of camp to get much enjoyment out of this.
The plot threads increase, the coherence reduces, and interest asks if there is something else to watch.
Perhaps One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, a much better story told in a quarter of the time.