Lifetime has super-sized its latest original movie into a limited series, and The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe will last for four hours starting on May 29. Right now it doesn't seem like the network is planning a Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe Season 2 — it's more of a self-contained story. The series seems to be focused on Monroe's tumultuous early life, characterized by a childhood spent in foster care and struggles with her mother's mental illness. Ever since her death in 1962, the public knew there was a darkness behind Marilyn Monroe's light and fluffy comic movie persona. But most of this impression is based on her unsuccessful marriages and drug problems, not her early life. Instead, this adaptation will reflect on how Monroe's early experiences shaped those later events.
But there's nothing stopping Lifetime from going back to the Norma Jeane well and putting more Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe out there. If Susan Sarandon is willing to return to the role, there's more to explore about Marilyn's mother, who outlived her daughter well into the 1980s. Or the series could re-trod some familiar Marilyn ground with more detail, like her issues with drugs, and marriage to Arthur Miller. Still, it might have more power if left as a solo piece, to stand on its own as a lesser-known story of one of the most famous actresses in Hollywood history. But if Lifetimes does decide to go back for round two, there are still Marilyn myths it can explore.
Politics & Hollywood
One of the most popular Marilyn myths is the rumor that she had an affair with President John F. Kennedy, though TIME does a great job describing how these rumors were the combination of gossip, skillful photography, and the unfortunate deaths of both participants soon after, and were never actually proven. She definitely gave a memorable rendition of "Happy Birthday" to him in 1962, though. Something that crosses between fact, fiction, and wild speculation could make for a good political drama.
Even though this is covered extensively during the miniseries, a new installment that covers solely her struggles while growing up with family friends and foster parents would be sad, but powerful.
Her Stage Fright
A season devoted to Monroe's struggles with stage fright, as described by The Huffington Post, perhaps while filming Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, one of her early successes, would make for a tense, close-quartered drama, in the exact opposite style of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, which covers her entire life. And since she's known as such a captivating performer, learning more about how her anxiety made performing a constant struggle would add another dimension to what people think of her.
The World Of Pinups
It might be hard to do on basic cable, but an exploration of the world of pinup stars, with or without Monroe, would be a worthwhile endeavor for another miniseries. Actually, the star of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe , Kelli Garner, was in The Playboy Club, NBC's attempt to cash in on this fascinating world. A more focused attempt could examine the line between exploitation, art, and business — especially since Monroe went on to become a movie star.
Or, Just Season 3 Of Smash
And, speaking of NBC, no show had a more bizarre interpretation of Norma Jeane's life than Bombshell, the musical within Smash, the show about musicals. Every episode added a new song, and every two episodes the lead of the show would change — though most fans (myself included) were more impressed by Megan Hilty's performance as Marilyn. If Lifetime is done after one season of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, it might be time for Hilty to get another crack at the part, because Marilyn's short life is full of inspiration.
Images: Ben Mark Holzberg/Lifetime; Giphy (4)