Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – American Horror Story

With summer coming to an end, and the new fall television schedule right around the corner, I have decided to take a break (of sorts) here on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday.  I say “of sorts” because instead of reviewing a fresh new series, I want to feature a few shows that I am looking forward to returning in the 2013/2014 TV season.

This week, American Horror Story

Over the years, FX has launched itself as one of the premiere networks due to their phenomenal original programming.  The channel hit pay dirt in the 2011/2012 season with yet another fantastic FX original to add to its list of past successes.  Joining the likes of Nip/Tuck, Damages, and Justified, American Horror Story kept with the creepy and dark storylines and didn’t disappoint!  And now, with two seasons “in the books,” the writers and creators hope to score big… again.

Season one, American Horror Story, followed the stories of the Murder House…

Following a miscarriage and an affair, Vivien and Ben Harmon left Boston with their daughter, looking for a fresh start.  The family bought a gorgeous house in California, despite learning that the previous owners both died in the basement in an apparent murder-suicide.

The house was perfect for the Harmons; large enough for Ben (Dylan McDermott, The Practice) to open his private psychiatry practice, and outdated just enough to keep Vivien (Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights) busy redecorating.  At first daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) doesn’t understand why the family had to move across the country, but she soon adjusted after meeting her father’s new patient and fellow “cutter” (Tate, played by Evan Peters).

The Murder House… aka The Harmon’s New Residence..

Not long after moving into the new home, the neighbors stopped by to introduce themselves: Constance (Academy Award winner, Jessica Lange) and her daughter Adelaide. Constance warned Vivien that Addy had always been attracted to the Harmon’s new home and had the tendency to walk in as she pleased, but failed to disclose that she too had a long history with the house.

Next, Vivien met Moira, the house’s former housekeeper.  After briefly visiting with Moira, Vivien decided to re-hire her to help tend to the house.  But here’s the creepy part – Vivien saw Moira as an older woman (played by Frances Conroy, Six Feet Under), but her adulterous husband saw Moira as a young and sexy maid (played by Alexandra Breckenridge, Dirt).

Following a home invasion of crazy people, reenacting a previous murder that allegedly took place in her house in the 1960s, Vivien decided to hop on board a tour bus that stopped outside her new home to learn the history of the house—The Murder House.

Season one brought us The Gimp…

The house was built in the early 1900s by a Dr. Charles Montgomery for his wife, Nora.  Suffering from a down economy, the doctor performed abortions inside the house for extra money.  It was not long before an angry family member of one of Charles’ patients kidnapped and murdered his son.

In the 1960s, a group of sorority girls lived in the house.  Maria, a devout Christian, answered the door to find a bleeding man on the front porch.  She brought him inside and called upstairs for the house nurse to help—but it was a set-up.  The man and his friends drowned the nurse, and hog tied and brutally murdered Maria.

In the 1970s, the house was vacant and a set of red-headed twin tweens enjoyed vandalizing the property.  Young Adelaide warned the two to not go inside, but they ignored her and continued to break lights and wreak havoc on the house.  After entering the basement, the two boys were murdered.

The stories continued… and the murders continued over the years; thus the nickname, the Murder House.

I made no secret of the fact that I loved the first season of American Horror Story.  The creators and writers produced groundbreaking TV; every episode was filled with eerie, spooky, and creepy storylines with twists and turns week in and week out.  No one was safe, not even the main characters played by major Hollywood actors and actresses.  And the ending?  Well, it wrapped up the Murder House storyline perfectly for the epic first year with potential for more.

But unlike most television dramas, season two brought something fresh—no more Murder House.  Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk took season two in an entirely different direction.  Together, they created American Horror Story: Asylum.

The series kept a few of our favorite leads from the first year (Jessica Lange, Evan Peters) and brought back a few of the supporting cast (Frances Conroy, Lily Rabe, Sarah Paulson, and Zachary Quinto) as well.  But no one returning for season two played the same character—Constance (Lange), Tate (Peters), Moira (Conroy), Nora (Rabe), Billie Dean (Paulson), and Chad (Quinto) were gone; instead, we had Sister Jude (Lange), Kit (Peters), The Angel of Death (Conroy), Sister Mary Eunice (Rabe), Lana (Paulson), and Dr. Oliver Thredson (Quinto).

New characters were also introduced in season two with well-known actors and actresses accepting the roles (Joseph Fiennes, James Cromwell, Chloe Sevigny, Adam Levine, and Mark Consuelos to just name a few).

The story was also completely different.  Instead of the Murder House, we had Briarcliff—the mental hospital/insane asylum—where again, it seemed no one ever really escapes.  Unlike the first season, which took place in the present, season two took place in the 1960s for the most part.  Instead of the theme of infidelity like in season one, season two focused largely on themes/things that could have happened, have happened, and were rumored to have happened, and might possibly happen again in the future, making it even creepier than season one… if that’s at all possible.

Asylum brought us Bloody Face…

In lieu of the creepy and spooky, the stories were primarily dark, twisted, and extremely bothersome… bordering on disgusting.   Perhaps one of the reasons season two was so gripping was because of the controversial storylines: aliens, demonic possession, abuse at the hands of medical professionals and the Catholic Church, the inhumane treatment of those locked away in the mental hospital/insane asylum… all simply because those in charge could get away with it.  As mentioned before, all of these things could have happened in real life, have happened, and will quite possibly happen again in the future.  That’s why American Horror Story: Asylum was scary—different from the purely suspenseful themes in the first year.

For me, I enjoyed the first year more than the second… as far as the story is concerned, anyway.  The acting and characters?  They were still just as impressive.  Once again, Jessica Lange and Even Peters carried the show with help from American Horror Story alumni Sarah Paulson and Zachary Quinto.  I watched every single week just for the cast.  Now, I’m not saying season two was bad, just different and not as good in my opinion.  In keeping with the first year, the unique storytelling, twists, and revelations of Asylum were simply genius and still unlike anything else on TV today.

American Horror Story: Asylum closed just as nicely as the first… perhaps even better.  Every story was wrapped up in a big red bow with no questions or cliffhangers left dangling.

News of the third season pickup thrilled me; but left me wondering what we, the television audience, could expect with a new year of AHS.  And then I saw the story’s new “home” of sorts…

American Horror Story: Coven

Coven?  Are you kidding me?  We get witches?  Oh, heck yes!

Not only that, but a few of our favorites are back!  Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, and Lily Rabe return… as do a few of season one’s veterans we missed or barely saw in season two: Taissa Farmiga, Frances Conroy, Alexandra Breckenridge, and Denis O’Hare.  One name is missing, I notice, and this makes me sad… Zachary Quinto.  Fingers crossed he at least stops by the Coven for a second or two.

We also have some new faces joining the cast… some really familiar faces: Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Patti LuPone, Emma Roberts, Gabourey Sidibe, Grey Damon, and Mare Winningham.

After seeing what the writers and creators were capable of in the first two years, I will be one of the first to press play on my DVR October 9th when American Horror Story: Coven premieres on FX.

It’s for this reason (and all those mentioned above), that I must award the entire American Horror Story series with the GTV rating… even though I clearly enjoyed the first season more than the second.

Bottom line –  FX has themselves a groundbreaking television series, appropriate for viewing after dark with a perfectly grilled bone-in filet, steaming broccoli, and a glass of fine red wine.

What do you think—will you watch American Horror Story: Coven?  Did you watch the first two seasons of AHS?  Did you prefer season one or season two?  I’d love to hear from you!

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV):It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (NyQuil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech
Inedible TV: Exactly how it sounds…

American Horror Story: Asylum—Where Crazy Stuff Happens

I made no secret of the fact that I loved the first season of American Horror Story.  The creators and writers produced groundbreaking TV; every episode was filled with eerie, spooky, and creepy storylines with twists and turns week in and week out.  No one was safe, not even the main characters played by major Hollywood actors and actresses.  And the ending?  Well, it wrapped up the Murder House storyline perfectly for the epic first year.

The news of the second season pickup thrilled me; even though the original story wrapped, the continuation of the series, Murder House included, had endless possibilities: fresh new faces with new Murder House residents—new owners would undoubtedly be haunted by the past and would uncover new secrets not yet brought to light in the first season; the ghosts—we all learned that even when dead, no one leaves the Murder House; and heck, even the same characters from season one technically could have continued in one way or another—not everyone died, and even those that did had room to continue with a little creativity.

But Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk took season two in an entirely different direction.  Together, they created American Horror Story: Asylum.

Oh, the torture! It was almost as painful to watch as it was to imagine for the character strapped to the table!

The series kept a few of our favorite leads from the first year (Jessica Lange, Evan Peters) and brought back a few of the supporting cast (Frances Conroy, Lily Rabe, Sarah Paulson, and Zachary Quinto) as well.  But no one returning for season two played the same character—Constance (Lange), Tate (Peters), Moira (Conroy), Nora (Rabe), Billie Dean (Paulson), and Chad (Quinto) were gone; instead, we had Sister Jude (Lange), Kit (Peters), The Angel of Death (Conroy), Sister Mary Eunice (Rabe), Lana (Paulson), and Dr. Oliver Thredson (Quinto).

Oh, Sister!

New characters were also introduced in season two with well-known actors and actresses accepting the roles (Joseph Fiennes, James Cromwell, Chloe Sevigny, Adam Levine, and Mark Consuelos to just name a few).

But not only did the characters change, the story was completely different.  Instead of the Murder House, we had Briarcliff—the mental hospital/insane asylum—where again, it seems no one ever really escapes.  Unlike the first season, which took place in the present, season two takes place in the 1960s for the most part.  Instead of the theme of infidelity like in season one, season two focuses largely on themes/things that could have happened, have happened and were rumored to have happened, and might possibly happen again in the future, making it even creepier than season one… if that’s at all possible.

In lieu of the creepy and spooky, the stories were primarily dark, twisted, and extremely bothersome… bordering on disgusting.   Perhaps one of the reasons season two was so gripping was because of the controversial storylines: aliens, demonic possession, abuse at the hands of medical professionals and the Catholic Church, the inhumane treatment of those locked away in the mental hospital/insane asylum… all simply because those in charge could get away with it.  As mentioned before, all of these things could have happened in real life, have happened, and will quite possibly happen again in the future.  That’s why American Horror Story: Asylum was scary—different from the purely suspenseful themes in the first year.

“If you look in the face of evil, evil’s gonna look right back at you.”  ~ Sister Jude to Lana

One’s worst nightmare… being locked up against one’s own will and experiencing a horrible torture with no end in site. Creepy, right?

For me, I enjoyed the first year more than the second…  as far as the story is concerned, anyway.  The acting and characters?  They were still just as impressive.  Once again, Jessica Lange and Even Peters carried the show with help from American Horror Story alumni Sarah Paulson and Zachary Quinto.  I watched every single week just for the cast.  Now, I’m not saying season two was bad, just different and not as good in my opinion.  In keeping with the first year, the unique storytelling, twists, and revelations of Asylum were simply genius and still unlike anything else on TV today.

For the most part, there was one central theme/mystery in AHS: Asylum—Bloody Face.  In the ‘60s, a man murdered and skinned women.  One young man was arrested for the crimes and sentenced to Briarcliff, but he never wavered and always declared his innocence.  Was he Bloody Face?  Of course not; that would have been too easy.  The identity of the real Bloody Face was a twist all its own.  But that’s all I will say—no spoilers here.

I will say this though: I loved how almost every single actor/actress from season one, if not cast as a major or supporting character in two, was at least cast in a recurring role or cameo appearance in Asylum.  Almost everyone… Connie Britton didn’t appear once, and that was a bummer, but understandable considering her new hit on ABC (Nashville).  And just when I was beginning to think Dylan McDermott wouldn’t make an appearance either, he did.  And WHAT a role he played!

Oh, Johnny. Johnny. Johnny. Johnny.

Like its predecessor, American Horror Story: Asylum closed just as nicely as the first… perhaps even better.  Every story was wrapped up in a big red bow with no questions or cliffhangers left dangling.  We know a season three has already been announced, leaving us with just one question: what in the world can we look forward to next year?

What do you think?  Did you watch American Horror Story: Asylum?  Did you prefer season one or season two?  I’d love to hear from you!

Tele-Tuesday: Anxiously Awaiting the Return of American Horror Story

Over these last few weeks, The Ooo Factor has introduced seventeen new programs to the 2012 television schedule.  But what about our returning favorites?

By now, I think everyone knows just how much I loved a few of the new dramas last year.  When asked which one I enjoyed most, I have a difficult time choosing (all three are very different).  First, we have ABC’s Revenge, where we watch the angry, yet beautiful protagonist Emily Thorne exact vengeance against all those who destroyed her family years earlier.  Next, we have CBS’s Person of Interest, where we watch the Jack Bauer-Raylan Givens-like protagonist John Reese kick bad guys around each and every week.  Then we have American Horror Story

FX did it again in the 2011/2012 season with yet another fantastic original drama to add to its list of past successes.  Joining the likes of Nip/Tuck, Damages, and Justified, American Horror Story kept with the creepy and dark story lines and didn’t disappoint!

To recap:

Following a miscarriage and an affair, Vivien and Ben Harmon leave Boston with their daughter looking for a fresh start.  The family buys a gorgeous house, despite learning that the previous owners both died in the basement in an apparent murder-suicide.

The Harmon Family…

The house is perfect for the Harmons; large enough for Ben (Dylan McDermott, The Practice) to open his private psychiatry practice, and outdated just enough to keep Vivien (Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights) busy redecorating.  At first daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) doesn’t understand why the family has to move across the country, but she soon adjusts after she meets her father’s new patient and fellow “cutter” Tate (Evan Peters).

The family’s new neighbors stop by to introduce themselves: Constance (Academy Award winner, Jessica Lange) and her daughter Adelaide. Constance warns Vivien that Addy has always been attracted to the Harmon’s new home and tends to walk in as she pleases, but fails to disclose that she too has a long history with the house.

Next, Vivien meets Moira, the house’s former housekeeper.  After briefly visiting with Moira, Vivien decides to hire her to help tend to the house.  But here’s the creepy part – Vivien sees Moira as an older woman (played by Frances Conroy, Six Feet Under), but her adulterous husband sees Moira as a young and sexy maid (played by Alexandra Breckenridge, Dirt).

Regardless of which version of Moira is on screen, Constance can’t stand her.  Years earlier, young Moira was sleeping with another former owner of the house (played by Eric Close from Without a Trace), a man who Constance loved.  After walking in on Moira and her lover having sex, Constance shot and killed them both.  Constance didn’t bother to notice that her boyfriend was forcing himself onto the beautiful housekeeper; instead, she just shot point-blank into Moira’s eye before taking dead aim at his chest.

Following a home invasion of crazy people reenacting a previous murder that allegedly took place in her house in the 1960s, Vivien decides to hop on board a tour bus that stops outside her new home to learn a bit of history about the house—The Murder House.

The Murder House… aka the Harmon residence.

The house was built in the early 1900s by a Dr. Charles Montgomery for his wife, Nora.  Suffering from a down economy, the doctor performed abortions inside the house for extra money.  It was not long before an angry family member of one of Charles’ patients kidnapped and murdered his son.   The events destroyed the family, particularly Nora, but when the doctor sewed his son back together like a Frankenstein monster, his wife lost it.

In the 1960s, a group of sorority girls lived in the house.  Maria, a devout Christian, answered the door to find a bleeding man on the front porch.  She brought him inside and called upstairs for the house nurse to help—but it was a set-up.  The man and his friends drowned the nurse, and hog tied and brutally murdered Maria.

Learning of these additional stories about her house, Vivien decides she has heard enough.  Noticing blood, she jumps off the tour bus and rushes to the doctor afraid she’s suffering another miscarriage.  Her baby is fine, but despite her doctor’s warning to not attempt a move during pregnancy, Vivien insists they sell the house.

In addition to the legends that Vivien has already heard, the house has an even longer history of death making it difficult for the realtor (Christine Estabrook, Desperate Housewives) to show the house.

In the 1970s, the house was vacant and a set of red-headed twin tweens enjoyed vandalizing the property.  Young Adelaide warned the two to not go inside, but they ignored her and continued to break lights and wreak havoc on the house.  After entering the basement, the two boys were murdered.

Look behind you, Vivien!

Another previous owner, Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare, True Blood), set the house on fire while his wife and daughters slept—or did he?  Regardless of how the fire started, he too burned, but was spared before perishing himself.  After serving years of his life sentence in prison, he was diagnosed with an advanced stage of brain cancer and was released to live out the remainder of his days a free man.  Now free, Larry begins to stalk Ben and warns him that he must get his family out of that house…

On Halloween 2010, gay lovers Chad (Zachary Quinto, Heroes) and Patrick (Teddy Sears, Raising the Bar) died while preparing to celebrate the festive holiday.  Following a fight, Patrick stormed off and a mysterious man dressed in rubber drowned Chad in his apple-bobbing station.  Attempting to mend fences with his lover, Patrick rushed home wearing his Halloween costume and discovered his partner’s body before suffering his own untimely death at the hands of The Gimp.  As we can see, the previous owners did not die in a murder-suicide, as the realtor tells it, but rather a double homicide…

The Gimp… or is that Ben? Or Tate? Who is wearing the creepy rubber suit?

Past events continue to unfold, but remember one of the reasons why the family moved away from Boston?  Ben had an affair with his student (Hayden played by Kate Mara from We Are Marshall).

Hayden announces she is pregnant and shows up at the Harmon house hoping to convince Ben to take care of her or warns she will ruin his marriage.  Crazy Larry takes a shovel to Hayden’s head and Ben covers up the murder by burying her in a grave in the backyard.  As Larry sees it, Ben now owes him; and the house has a new ghost lingering around.

Speaking of the grave, there were other bodies down there—Moira for one.  Constance explains this is why the slain housekeeper is forever tied to the house, especially after Ben builds a gazebo to cover up Hayden’s body.  But are there other bodies down there too?

Tate, Constance, and Moira watch as yet another falls victim…

And this is just early into season one… the really good thing about American Horror Story is that the show actually answered many of our questions, including:

Who is The Gimp?
What happened to Tate?
What happened to Constance’s other children, and is she a ghost?
What happened to Mrs. Montgomery?
Will Addy be tied to the house along with the other ghosts?
Will the Harmons escape The Murder House?
And, who is the father of Vivien’s baby, her husband or the man in the rubber suit?

But unlike most television dramas, season two brings us an entirely different story and cast.  Instead of a family moving into The Murder House, this year the story takes place in an asylum.  Instead of playing Constance, Jessica Lange now plays Sister Jude.  Instead of playing Chad, Zachary Quinto now plays Dr. Thredson.  Instead of playing Tate, Evan Peters now plays Kit Walker.   And, instead of playing Nora, Lily Rabe now plays Sister Mary Eunice.  Other than this, the entire cast of American Horror Story season two is new:  James Cromwell, Joseph Fiennes, Adam Levine, Chloe Sevigny, Clea DuVall, and Mark Consuelos to just name a few.

I won’t lie; a part of me is sad that the story of season one died along with… well, I don’t want to give anything away.  But after seeing what the writers and creators were capable of last year, I will be one of the first to press play on my DVR October 17th when American Horror Story: Asylum premieres on FX.

Did you watch American Horror Story?  What do you think about the change in location and cast for season two?  Which non-returning character will you miss most?  Which new character are you most looking forward to?  I’d love to hear from you!

%d bloggers like this: