Ryan Murphy shows ranked: Top 18 productions from ‘Dahmer’ to ‘American Horror Story’
Marcus James Dixon, Kevin Jacobsen
Emmys November 7, 20
Ryan Murphy has become one of the biggest mega-producers in Hollywood due to his prolific work on television. Starting in 1999 with The WB dramedy “Popular,” he has given a platform to the outcast and the forgotten, starting and reviving many high-profile careers. View his prolific TV career in our photo gallery below, highlighting Ranking Ryan Murphy’s Epic TV Shows From Worst To Best
Murphy, whose birthday is November 9, established himself as a real presence after “Nip/Tuck,” his dark FX drama about a pair of plastic surgeons. Still, it wasn’t until the one-two punch of “Glee” and “American Horror Story” that the producer took off.
On “Glee,” Murphy showed the power of bringing disparate kids together through the power of music, launching the careers of Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, Amber Riley, Naya Rivera, and more. “American Horror Story” became a haven for older female movie stars who weren’t getting parts like they used to, like Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, and Angela Bassett, who have all gotten to sink their teeth into deliciously evil parts.
Murphy has always had a keen eye for visuals and mood, hence why his series are consistently nominated for and winning Emmys. Some of Murphy’s shows have had less success than others but even canceled fares like “The New Normal” and “Scream Queens” have been fresh and daring both in concept and style.
More recently, Murphy has focused more on adapting true stories while still keeping with his stylish, addictive flair. “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” is a prime example, going through a case most people already knew the details of and causing the audience to be riveted like they were watching for the first time.
18. ‘The Politician’ (2019-2020)
This Netflix comedy that tells the story of a high school student (played by Ben Platt) who one day wants to become President will likely be remembered for its brilliant stunt casting. Where else can you see Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow, Judith Light, and Bette Midler hamming it up in each episode?
Jeremy Pope and David Corenswet star in this Netflix miniseries about the early years of the Hollywood film industry. Despite being a critical landmine, it reaped 10 Emmy nominations and won the award for Best Period/Character Hairstyling.
NBC’s “The New Normal” was Murphy’s first venture in the 30-minute format, starring Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells as a couple whose surrogate mother (Georgia King) moves in with them. The show lasted only one season and was canceled due to low ratings, but it did win the People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Comedy and the GLAAD Media Award for Best Comedy Series.
Sarah Paulson stars as the iconic Nurse Ratched from the 1975 film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (which was based on Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel). Netflix’s TV show kept viewers on their toes as it blended horror, thriller, and comedy — and oh, those colorful period costumes! A second season was ordered but has yet to debut.
Despite going under the radar at Netflix, “Halston,” starring Ewan McGregor as the iconic fashion designer, wowed Emmy voters with a victory for Best Limited Series Actor (McGregor).
13. ‘Popular’ (1999-2001)
Murphy’s career as a producer began with The WB’s “Popular,” starring Leslie Bibb and Carly Pope as teenage girls of opposing social standing forced together when their single parents marry. The series featured many tropes in Murphy’s more well-known shows, including outcasts as protagonists, LGBT themes, and witty dialogue. While never an Emmy nominee, “Popular” did pick up wins at the GLAAD Media Awards and Teen Choice Awards.
Fox’s “Scream Queens” was like a blend of “Popular” and “American Horror Story,” with a serial killer terrorizing a group of sorority sisters. Starring Emma Roberts, Lea Michele, Abigail Breslin, Keke Palmer, Billie Lourd, and Golden Globe nominee Jamie Lee Curtis, “Scream Queens” featured a strong cast and good production values but was canceled after two seasons. This series also earned the People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Comedy.
11. ‘The Watcher’ (2022)
Naomi Watts, Jennifer Coolidge, Margo Martindale, Noma Dumezweni, and so many others star in “The Watcher” on Netflix, a loosely-based adaptation of a true story about new homeowners who receive threatening letters. It was picked up for a second season in November 2022.
10. ‘9-1-1’ (2018-Present)
Fox’s “9-1-1” is a procedural about the difficult lives of first responders like police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. The drama premiered with frequent Murphy collaborators Angela Bassett and Connie Britton, as well as Peter Krause. This rating hit resulted in a spin-off in 2020 titled “9-1-1: Lone Star.”
FX’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” the second season of “American Crime Story,” stars Edgar Ramirez as legendary fashion designer Gianni Versace, Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan, the man who shot and killed him, Ricky Martin as Antonio D’Amico, Versace’s lover, and Penélope Cruz as Donatella Versace, his sister. The show premiered in January 2018 and won seven Emmys, including Best Limited Series, Best Actor (Criss), and Best Director (Murphy).
The third installment of “American Crime Story” tells of the scandalous affair between White House intern Monica Lewinsky and President Bill Clinton. While critics were mixed, we loved the political series that starred Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp and Beanie Feldstein as Lewinsky.
Murphy’s long-standing relationship with FX started with the drama “Nip/Tuck.” Julian McMahon and Dylan Walsh starred as plastic surgeons who own a business together and fulfill the peculiar requests of their clients. The show earned an Emmy for prosthetic makeup in 2004 and nominations for guest stars Jill Clayburgh, Sharon Gless, and Oliver Platt, in addition to a Golden Globe win for Best Drama Series in 2005.
6. ‘Pose’ (2018-2021)
Michaela Jae Rodriguez and Billy Porter headline this period piece about the struggles of being transgender in 1990s New York City. The inspirational drama series won four Emmy Awards during its three-season run for Best Actor (Porter), Best Costumes, Best Makeup, and Best Hairstyling.
5. ‘Feud: Bette and Joan’ (2017)
Murphy created yet another FX anthology series with “Feud,” the first season of which centered on the rivalry between Hollywood icons Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange). The period piece earned 18 Emmy nominations, including six for acting and walked away with two trophies. Future seasons will focus on other famous feuds.
4. ‘Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’ (2022)
Evan Peters has never been better (or creepier) than when he stepped into the role of real-life serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. The limited series was an instant success and became the #1 show on Netflix for several weeks. In November 2022, the streamer ordered two more future “Monster” installments, which will tell more stories of villainous figures who have impacted society.
3. ‘Glee’ (2009-2015)
While his early shows were relative successes, Ryan Murphy’s “Glee” made him a household name. The comedy-musical about the diverse members of a high school glee club was a huge sensation and launched a new generation of young talent, like Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, and the late Cory Monteith. “Glee” was nominated for 40 Emmys, winning six, including Comedy Directing for Murphy and Comedy Supporting Actress for Jane Lynch.
2. ‘American Horror Story (2011-Present)
Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk single-handedly revolutionized the limited series format in 2011 when they sold “American Horror Story” to FX. At the time, fans thought they were watching a continuing drama series, so imagine their surprise when all of the main characters kept getting killed off! The Emmy-winning “AHS” franchise has aired for more than a decade now, revamping itself each year, and has even spawned a Hulu spin-off titled “American Horror Stories.”
1. ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (2016)
While not necessarily the lead showrunner, Murphy helped bring the anthology format to true crime with FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.” A riveting look back on the O.J. Simpson trial, the miniseries was a huge Emmy favorite, winning nine trophies from 22 nominations, including Best Limited Series and three acting awards, for Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. Vance, and Sterling K. Brown.
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