By Connor Bryant | Managing Editor of Copy
Trading pop musical numbers for famous horror movie soundtracks and haunted mansions, and high school misfits for ghosts in gimp suits, “Glee” creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck have shown their versatility with the series premiere of their new television show, “American Horror Story,” on FX. Right from the very first scene, “American Horror Story” promises to be television’s newest guilty pleasure.
After having recovered from a traumatic miscarriage and catching her psychiatrist husband, Ben (Dylan McDermott), in an act of infidelity with one of his students, Vivien Harmon (Emmy nominated actress Connie Britton of “Friday Night Lights”) moves her family from Boston to Los Angeles. The Harmons relocate to a 1920s LA mansion with a sinister past. Undeterred by the mansion’s violent history, the Harmons decide to buy the house: their first mistake. The Harmons get acquainted with their eccentric neighbors, aging Southern belle Constance (Academy Award winner, Jessica Lange) and her mentally handicapped daughter, Adelaide (Jamie Brewer), who seems to have a preternatural connection to the house. Vivien also hires back the former housekeeper Moira O’Hara (Frances Conroy). But while most see her as a middle-aged woman, unfaithful men, Ben included, see a voluptuous young temptress (Alex Breckenridge).
Meanwhile, the Harmons’ suicidal outcast of a daughter, Violet (Taissa Farmiga), makes a disturbing pseudo-romantic connection with her father’s antisocial and possibly dangerous teenage patient, Tate (Evan Peters). Meanwhile, Ben is continually harassed by a terribly burned former owner of the mansion (Denis O’Hare) who acts as Ben’s fallen guardian angel.
Vivien discovers, after having made up with Ben, she is pregnant. The paternity of the child is in question however, when it is strongly hinted its conception was due to a mysterious figure dressed in a fetish suit. The following two episodes continue to chart the Harmons’ increasingly bizarre encounters, including a home invasion and further developments with Ben’s former mistress, as well as the supporting character’s histories, as they attempt to rebuild their family and peacefully exist in a universe that obviously wants nothing to do with happily ever after.
“American Horror Story” is chock-full of subplots and loose ends, which is always my complaint of television shows. Overloading an audience with too much information in the beginning takes away from further plot development in the future. However, the actors obviously know more about the show’s future, as they should, leaving the audience with an assurance that the many mysteries will be solved if they stay tuned long enough.
The acting skill of Britton is especially impressive. She manages to deliver every one of her lines with genuine emotion and a natural sense of language, which culminates in a very realistic performance. McDermott does a good job of keeping his character’s history in mind throughout, his weaknesses and vulnerability etched across his face in almost every frame. Also worthy of note is the slightly Cruella-esque performance by Jessica Lange, who sweeps in on the family unannounced and steals the show (and some silverware) with every scene she is in.
“American Horror Story” is rated TV-MA (Mature Audience) for a reason. Coming from not only the creators of “Glee,” but also the former FX drama series “Nip/Tuck,” this violent and often sexually explicit content will come as no surprise to those familiar with Murphy and Falchuck’s work. It is obvious that while “Glee” has been aimed at an adolescent audience, gaining adult fans by accident, “American Horror Story” is intended for an adult audience. I will definitely be a regular viewer as long as Murphy and Falchuck maintain their creative storytelling, and the acting talents of Britton and others continue to be at the top of their game. On the whole, “American Horror Story” is filmed well, superbly acted, and despite occasional graphic content, compulsively watchable.
“American Horror Story” airs on FX on Wednesday nights at 7 and 10 p.m.