Is "Ratched" rad or wretched? Critics are leaning toward the latter.
Ryan Murphy's prequel series about Nurse Ratched, the iconic character from 1975's five-time Oscar-winning "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," began streaming on Netflix Friday – and reviews are rolling in.
USA TODAY's TV critic Kelly Lawler noted: "Although 'Cuckoo' was the very essence of realism, 'Ratched' exists in a far more heightened reality, illustrated by Murphy's familiar aesthetic of Technicolor mixed with light gore, camp humor and maximally discomforting dialogue."
In addition to Sarah Paulson playing Nurse Ratched (originally played by Louise Fletcher), Michael Douglas, served as executive producer along with Murphy. Douglas was a producer of the 1975 film, which won the best picture Oscar. The film was adapted from Ken Kesey's 1962 novel, which followed characters at an Oregon psychiatric hospital. The show traces Nurse Ratched's origins and is set decades before "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
Here are some notable reviews:
"Ratched is beautiful, but it's really bad. The messy eight-episode first season of the Netflix horror thriller... succeeds as a compendium of stunning images, but that's about it. As a story, it is nonsensical, self-indulgent, and unsuccessful at saying anything about Ratched herself except something along the lines of 'people do the darndest things.' "
"Such an odd show. Murphy is no stranger to big swings, but usually, it’s clear what interested him in a project even if it doesn’t work. Ratched is a bunch of disparate influences... thrown together simply because they could be, and not because they fit together, or add up to more as a group than they did individually. The Nurse Ratched from the film would not approve."
"It's a little too reckless, and the connection to 'Cuckoo's Nest' ... feel conspicuously tenuous. While the series zeroes in on social mores of the time, including homophobia and sexism, it plays mostly like an excuse for more gruesome 'Horror Story'-style violence... The result, simply put, is that 'Ratched' becomes wretched and for the wrong reasons, and even filed into the cabinet of 'guilty pleasures,' doesn't deserve an extended stay."
"The over-the-top violence, nonsense plotting, and straight up extraterrestrial behavioral choices that usually taint the later episodes of Murphy’s shows are all Ratched has to offer from the start... Ratched’s off-kilterness neither serves its humor nor enhances a social message. It’s just weird and uncomfortable."
Some critics, however, leaned into the silly, high-drama fun of the series.
"Set in California after World War II, Ratched is an intoxicating psychological thriller with luxurious sets, beautiful period costumes, reams of plot and quite a few moments of vicious gore — imagine a telenovela directed by Alfred Hitchcock... Paulson, an actress who achieves her effects with fine, precise detail, somehow manages to acknowledge the camp value of all of this without playing into it."
"It is all the most excellent fun. Paulson conveys a fathomless darkness while appearing to do almost nothing. When moments of viciousness break her affectless surface, it is genuinely disquieting. Another award surely beckons, to add to the others she has accrued under Murphy’s aegis.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Ratched' reviews: Critics don't love Ryan Murphy, Sarah Paulson show