‘Dahmer’ Marks Ryan Murphy’s First Monster Hit for Netflix After 4 Years and a Half Dozen Tries

“Dahmer” is the buzziest show on TV right now, dominating both the cultural conversation and the list of Netflix’s top 10 most-viewed shows. But while questions abound about the show’s sensitivity towards Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims and Evan Peters’ accentone big question has come to the forefront as the show fully entered the zeitgeist: Is this Ryan Murphy’s first runaway hit for Netflix?

Two weeks after it was first released, “Dahmer” remains the No. 1 show on the streaming service, recording at a total of 496 million hours viewed after its first 12 days. The first week viewership trailed behind only “Stranger Things 4” and “Bridgerton” Season 2 in terms of Netflix series debuts this year. In fact, the word-of-mouth has helped solidify “Dahmer” as the ninth most popular English-language show in Netflix history.

The 10-episode series — which reteams Murphy with “Glee” co-creator Ian Brennan and actor Evan Peters to chronicle the story of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer — has become the kind of watercooler-type series for which Murphy first came to prominence. At his previous longtime home of 20th Century Fox Television, the prolific writer/producer/director created such hits as “Glee,” “American Horror Story” and “American Crime Story” until Netflix signed him in 2018 with a five-year deal worth up to $300 million — one year after ABC hit-maker Shonda Rhimes had ditched her longtime ABC Studios deal for Netflix as well (though for a reported $100 million).

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While Netflix has not provided viewership data for any of Murphy’s previous four series and two movies for the service (the streamer didn’t start sharing viewer data until June 2021), “Dahmer” is far and away the biggest show he’s made for the platform so far. Bigger than his colorful dramedy “The Politician”; bigger than the Sarah Paulson-fronted “Ratched”; and definitely bigger than his one-season historical drama “Hollywood.”

While none of his previous projects beyond “Halston” would be considered a bust (although that limited series picked up an Emmy for star Ewan McGregor), what Murphy’s previous Netflix shows failed to do was break through the noise of “Peak TV” to become a buzzworthy hit.

According to data compiled by Whip Media (which takes data from TV Time, a TV and movie app that tracks viewer interest across 22 million global registered users), interest in “Dahmer” is growing at a rate similar to the Rhimes-produced “Bridgerton ” did in its first season and faster than Rhimes’ true-crime limited series “Inventing Anna” did earlier this year. Whip Media’s data also shows “Dahmer” as being three times more popular than “The Politician” or “Hollywood,” and pacing 20% ​​ahead of Murphy’s next closest series in terms of interest, “Ratched.”

Rhimes, the other major A-list creative Netflix lured from traditional TV, has paced well behind Murphy in output since striking her own deal in 2017, but what she lacks in quantity she makes up for in sheer volume of viewers. “Bridgerton” (which Rhimes’ Shondaland produces) and “Inventing Anna” (which Rhimes created herself) were hits that also dominated the zeitgeist, with the former launching as the most-watched Netflix series debut in history at the time and becoming a fully fledged Netflix franchise.

Evan Peters as Jeffrey Dahmer in “Dahmer” (Netflix)

In fact, both seasons of “Bridgerton” and the limited series “Invention Anna” are in the Top 10 most-viewed Netflix shows of all time. Besides “Dahmer,” none of Murphy’s series made that cut. And Murphy’s two 2020 films under his Netflix deal, the musical “The Prom” and the play adaptation “The Boys in the Band,” are nowhere to be found in the Top 10 most-viewed Netflix movies either. That kind of says it all.

First announced in 2020, “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” (the show’s official title) finds Murphy telling the story of the infamous serial killer by putting a focus on his victims. Nary a peep was made about the project since Peters was cast in March of 2021, and Netflix essentially surprise-dropped the show in late September.

No screeners were made available for critics to review in advance of the show’s release, and the streamer announced the premiere date at the same time they released the trailer – just five days before “Dahmer” would be available to stream. And while reviews for the show have been unkind (it currently sits at 53% on Rotten Tomatoes) and family members of the serial killer’s victims have said the show exploits the tragedy that befell their loved ones, the fact remains that everyone is talking about “Dahmer.”

While a second season of the serial killer series is understandably out of the question, what’s next for Murphy at Netflix and beyond?

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He’s about to release a true-story thriller series called “The Watcher” starring Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale on Oct. 13 (which he co-created and largely wrote with Ian Brennan). And while a second season of “Ratched” was ordered and Murphy previously said he’d like to do a third season of “The Politician,” the status of both is unclear.

A Netflix rep did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on those projects — or the future status of Murphy’s deal with the streamer.

Despite his Netflix partnership, Murphy has remained in business with Fox’s FX, with at least three more “American Horror Story” seasons on the way and a second season of “Feud” (subtitled “Capote’s Women”) finally moving forward five years after the first season aired.

With “Dahmer” cutting through the noise (something that’s becoming increasingly harder in the realm of television), there’s suddenly new interest in what this powerful producer is cooking up next.

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