“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is one of those stories whose foreboding won’t soon lose relevance. Set in an Oregon psychiatric institution, if you’re not familiar, the 1962 Ken Kesey novel follows Randle Patrick McMurphy, a criminal who avoids jail time by faking insanity, and his struggle for power over the no-nonsense Nurse Ratched. Misfortune befalls most everyone in the story, the film adaptation of which, starring Jack Nicholson as McMurphy, won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, in 1976.
Meanwhile, Ryan Murphy is a television connoisseur who could probably turn a video of grass growing into a hit. His resume includes programs that have drawn huge audiences, including “Glee” and “9-1-1,” and his biggest successes seem to come in the form of pushing the envelope on the eerie: He’s also behind “American Horror Story,” “Nip/Tuck” and “American Crime Story.”
It’s only right that Murphy is taking on “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” as his next project, announced back in 2017. The multi-hyphenate showrunner yesterday revealed the cast of his upcoming show, “Ratched,” and let’s just say that, true to Murphy’s form, it’s stacked.
Paulson’s involvement is no surprise, really, but she’s taking on a larger role as producer on top of playing Nurse Ratched herself in the series, which has already been ordered for two seasons (most likely made up of nine episodes each). Paulson, already an Emmy and Golden Globe winner, is close with both Murphy and Netflix -- she’s been a frontwoman on “American Horror Story” in every season and most recently was seen in a supporting role in Netflix’s record-breaking film “Bird Box.” “Ratched,” however, will become her first production job, and on Instagram she called herself “a lucky lady.”
Then there’s Cynthia Nixon (who just made a run for governor of New York, but OK), Sharon Stone and -- phew -- Finn Wittrock.
The series will act as a prequel of sorts, starting with the formidable nurse’s career as your typical medical professional and following her progression into the stone-faced personality that Louise Fletcher originally tackled.
Murphy, who’s had a close relationship with network FX throughout his career, is taking no prisoners with his entrance to Netflix. In February of last year, the streaming service announced a monumental ($300 million) exclusive deal with the producer that transpired after Disney and Fox joined forces. It’s the same kind of deal that poached Shonda Rhimes (of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” fame) from ABC. Rhimes already has concepts for a number of films and series in the works, and Murphy is right up there with her.
Although “Ratched” will be Murphy’s first official series born of the partnership, “The Politicians,” a political comedy about a ladder-climbing Californian, will also appear on the platform. It was originally supposed to air on Fox, but Netflix snatched it out of their hands and, with a cast including Ben Platt, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Lange, also received a two-season promise.
Murphy has a morbid talent for creating television that lures viewers into heinous realities, and “Ratched” is just the first step into what is destined to be an excellent era of entertainment.