Lost in the Reel’s video review for Angelyne

Tackling a subject like the enigmatic Angelyne was certainly no easy task.  The celebrity who rose to fame by posting herself up on billboards in and around Los Angeles in the eighties and nineties, kept herself the topic of watercolor conversation because she shrouded herself in mystery.  It wasn’t until The Hollywood Reporter’s expose on her came out in 2017, that light was finally shed on the starlet’s dark past and people finally knew her real name. 

The article read, “Way before Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, the enigmatic blonde bombshell was famous for being famous…”  But, unlike those two tabloid-obsessed reality-show stars, Angelyne reveled in being secretive and never wanted the world to know who she really was.  So, how do you make a show that dives deep into a star’s past life and psyche, but also stays respectful to them and their public persona?  Peacock’s 5-episode limited series Angelyne (in which the titular star was gifted 1 million dollars to be an executive producer) miraculously, mostly gets this formula right… though you will still be left feeling like you are on the outside looking in.  


I have been eagerly awaiting to see what Phantom of the Opera and Shameless star Emmy Rossum (who created one of my favorite television characters of all time in Fiona Gallagher), would do next in her career.  And she does not disappoint as Angelyne.  The actress completely disappears into the role, and not just because of the airy high-pitched voice, or the prosthetic make-up and fake boobs…. Rossum captures the heart and soul of this character, in a way that I don’t think any other performer could. 

You can feel the love and adoration that the actress has for Angelyne, throughout the entire series.  What is even more impressive, is that Rossum plays her in different stages of her life… retaining the same aura throughout, but also evolving from the slight naivety and optimism of her younger years to the more self-aware, opportunistic, and jaded Angelyne of present-day.  It’s a tough tight-rope act that Rossum is attempting, trying to balance the camp and ridiculousness, whilst also injecting the real substance into this character… and she nails it.


The show itself is also a tight-rope act, trying to be so many things at once, and although it tries its damndest, I don’t think it sticks its landing like Rossum is able to.  Angelyne the series is unfocused and all over the place, throwing in so many time jumps that it might make your head spin.  The only saving grace here is that each episode almost acts as a stand-alone story of one of the pivotal moments in our protagonist’s life. 

From her rock-n-roll days with an ex-lover, to her rise as a billboard star, to the days of fame and fortune and running her own brand, then to the later years of a documentarian trying to make a film about her life… and finally to the last episode when the THR article comes out and we get a glimpse into her past; we get it all with Angelyne.  If you look at it like that, then the show does have some kind of framework, but while watching, it can feel like a hot mess.  


This also has to do with the fact that the showrunners are trying to pull off an array of different storytelling techniques with the mockumentary style at the forefront.  It also utilizes multiple unreliable narrators to throw the audience off of what is actually the truth and what is fiction.  These battling perspectives add a lot of humor to the series, as we see in real-time these stories contradict each other with outrageous results.  There’s also a fantasy element thrown in, to add to the otherworldly essence of the star.  So, even though these elements are successful on their own, I can’t say they are woven together in the most cohesive of ways.


There is a lot to like about Angelyne and I think that the series does prove to be engrossing for most of its runtime.  But, it wasn’t until the fifth episode that I actually loved any of it.  In the finale, the series comes full circle, finally fully embracing its fantasy and meta elements.  And also, trying to actually get to the root of who this star is, what led her to transform into this persona, and why people have been fascinated by her for all of these years. 

This episode is what ultimately sealed the deal for me and made this a recommendable series… which I still have a hard time doing completely because I do think it is extremely niche and only people intrigued by the power of celebrity will probably appreciate it.  But, even if the show is not able to fully grasp every facet of Angelyne (and let’s be honest, that would be impossible), just being able to be along for the ride with her, is reason enough to tune in.  

Angelyne premieres on Peacock Thursday, May 19th, 2022.

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Official Trailer for Angelyne

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