Newsroom Obsessions: ‘American Horror Story’
By Sara Waber
Everyone here in the MTV Newsroom has been having nightmares the past three Wednesday nights because of the disturbing new FX series “American Horror Story.” “AHS” comes to us from Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, the TV geniuses who brought us the underdog loving “Glee” and the two very sexy and missed plastic surgeons of “Nip Tuck,” and while the commercials portray just another pee-your-pants horror show, “AHS” has more substance than you expect.
The show debuted to mixed reviews by critics and audiences, both of whom were discouraged by the same things. The first episode was overloaded with “ghouls and gross-outs that some viewers will squeal with delight while others wonder whether they can possibly tune in for this sort of fright every week,” according to the Washington Post, and there is too much sex and violence for the show to keep an audience … But hello? Has anyone ever heard about a little show called “True Blood”? Those not fortunate enough to have HBO now have “AHS” on basic cable to get their fix of gore and sex. But even “True Blood” pales in comparison to the unsettlingly unique quality that “AHS” has, which is why I totally fell in love with it.
“While we were writing this, I was constantly thinking about how good ‘Dark Shadows’ was, how gothic it was, and how it had all these interwoven stories about sex and marriage and obsession,” Murphy says of the show. “I don’t feel there’s anything on the air quite like that now.”
(We’re also obsessed with the forthcoming “Dark Shadows” movie starring Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer! Read all about it on MTV Movies Blog.)
Believe me, I was not at the head of the line to see “Paranormal Activity 3,” so I’m not just a sucker for horror, but the back story of this family keeps me intrigued and rooting for them.
Dylan McDermott plays Dr. Ben Harmon, a psychiatrist who was unfaithful to his wife, Vivien, forcing their move from Boston to the “murder house” in Los Angeles. We’re not used to seeing so much of McDermott at once but you might have recognized him from the television drama “The Practice” and films like “Steel Magnolias.” Vivien, played by two-time “Friday Night Lights” Emmy nominee Connie Britton, got the short end of the writers sadistic plans. Although the move to Los Angeles is spurred by Ben’s adultery, Vivien experienced a horrific miscarriage back in Boston and is now impregnated by a mysterious character adorned in all black spandex. The Harmons aren’t childless though. Violet, played by Taissa Farmiga (younger sis of “Up in the Air” Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga) is the brooding, angsty teenager who proclaims, “We’ll keep it,” after hearing about the previous owners dying in the house. The creators let a more cynical, rated-R version of “Glee” appear through Violet being bullied at school and then luring her bully to the home’s haunted basement for a scare.
The show is also filled with HBO veterans, including “True Blood’s” Denis O’Hare as Larry Harvey, a badly burnt former owner who doused his family in gasoline after saying the spirits in the house made him, and “Six Feet Under” matriarch Frances Conroy, who plays Moira O’Hara, an old housekeeper “that comes with the house.” Two-time Oscar winner Jessica Lange plays Constance, an elegantly sinister next door neighbor. She knows the history of the house, but doesn’t warn the Harmons directly. Instead, she lets a few subtle one-liners slip to let us know the deep mystery that lies within the walls of that house.
The fourth episode airs tonight and I can’t wait. I can’t think of a better way to spend a chilly Wednesday the week of Halloween. I feel as engulfed in the murder house as the Harmons do.