There are shows I love, like Breaking Bad, Homeland, and Happy Endings. There are shows I hate, like The Big Bang Theory, Revolution, and Hell on Wheels. There are shows I love to hate, like Smash, later seasons of American Idol, and The Walking Dead. There are shows I hate to love, like Awkward, later seasons of Project Runway, and Oddities. Then, there’s American Horror Story.
When the project was first announced I was wary. Ryan Murphy has never made a show that I didn’t either partially hate (Glee) or completely hate (Nip/Tuck), and horror is very difficult to adapt in the medium of television, due to regulations and time constraints. But my interest was piqued with the announcement of Connie Britton and Jessica Lange joining the cast along with the striking and mysterious ad campaign launched for the show. The now iconic image first released for the series that featured Connie Britton strewn about in an all red room, with a man in a full leather body suit graces the cover of the Blu-Ray release of the show’s first season. Along with the twelve episodes, the set also comes with various making of featurettes, a tour of the mansion where the show takes place, and a commentary of the pilot with Ryan Murphy.
It’s difficult doing a plot synopsis for this show, considering how incredibly convoluted and banal each plot line is, so instead here’s a list of basic plot points that this show touches on IN THE FIRST EPISODE, increasing in insanity:
- The Harmons , husband and wife Ben and Vivienne, and their daughter Violet (Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, and Taissa Farmiga) move to a mansion, which may or may not be haunted.
- Violet befriends a patient, Tate (Evan Peters), of her psychiatrist father.
- A girl with Downs’s syndrome repeatedly sneaks into the Harmon’s home
- A mysterious man with half of a face warns the family to leave the house
- Ben tries to burn down the house in his sleep
- Vivienne has sex with a man in a rubber body suit
- Ben has sex with a maid who is simultaneously old and only having one eye as well as young with both eyes
- Ben and Vivienne have sex with each other after trying to kill each other
- Ginger twins from the 70’s get murdered by a zombie baby in a dress
- Ben masturbates and cries in front of a mirror
This show only gets more and more complicated and confusing as the season progresses, each new plotline somehow becoming more confusing and stupid than the last (Tate’s dead, but he is the Rubber Man that rapes and impregnates Connie Britton, but he isn’t the Rubber Man even though he is, a but he’s also Constance’s son, even though he’s dead but he also dates Violet, and it wasn’t rape). But for some reason beyond my knowledge, I couldn’t stop watching. I hated every character on the show, save Constance and Addie, the dialogue was cringe inducing at best, and worst of all, the show was paced both break-neck fast and mind-numbingly slow. But every week, I tuned in. I was fascinated. It was like watching an obese man at a buffet. Already bloated and gross, watching him keep going and going is both morbidly interesting and gives you the slightest bit of schadenfreude.
In all honesty, I had fun with this show. The bonus features on the Blu-Ray are less of a behind the scene and more of a press release about how amazing Ryan Murphy is. AHS combines people and concepts I love (serialized drama! BDSM! Connie Britton!) with people and concepts I despise (Ryan Murphy! surly teens! Ryan Murphy!) to create a series that kept me tuning in week after week. The scab I can’t stop picking, American Horror Story is a confusing mess of a TV show that is more frustrating than enjoyable, and more enjoyable than it should be.
Dylan Garsee is a freelance writer/bingo enthusiast currently living in Austin, TX. He is studying sociology, and when he's not winning trivia nights at pork-themed restaurants, writing a collection of essays on the gay perspective in geek culture. An avid record collector, Dylan can mostly be seen at Waterloo Records, holding that one God Speed You! Black Emperor record he can't afford and crying. You can follow him on twitter @garseed.