Why American Horror Story is the best show on television.

I don’t want anyone to feel misled, so let me be clear: I don’t own a television. I think I sold it at a yard sale and never bothered to replace it.

I don’t miss it. When I visit other people’s houses, it astounds me that they leave the set on in the background and I absolutely detest commercials.

Growing up, we were allowed to watch an hour of television a week. With so many children in the house, it was probably the only way our parents could keep us from waging war over the remote, and my brothers and I saved our time so we could watch Doctor Who marathons together.

I’m sure you can imagine how many cultural references I’ve had to catch up on from childhood until now.

That said, when I want to watch something, I do it online. The world is an oyster of a different sort for me than it is for most of my friends. I don’t rush off to watch something when it airs. I watch it when I want to watch it and, just like everything else in life, I am choosy about what I ingest. So pay attention, I am about to tell you something extraordinary.

American Horror Story very well may be the best show on television today. 

While I realize that sentence can stand on its own  – hell, it could have been a tweet – I’m not finished.

American Horror Story has everything. Cult, camp, horror and chills, it assimilates urban legends, bits of history, folklore and myths to play on our fears, emotions and humour. The acting, plots and production are good, bad and all things between. It’s so good we suspend our disbelief to ride the story. It’s so bad we laugh at ourselves because we saw it coming but jumped anyway.

Twists, turns, blood, guts and gravy, this show is my not-so-secret, never-guilty pleasure. Critics argue sensationalism but I refute this. American Horror Story is built to be a ballsy show. They’re not afraid to go there, where ever there may be, and they don’t just push buttons, they slam them and, in effect, us. Nothing is sacred and there are no taboos. Mental illness, incest, bestiality, gore, racism, prejudice, sexism – if they haven’t hit it yet, they probably will. This is a show that makes and breaks its own rules, and yet manages to not take itself too seriously while frying our little grey cells in the process.

I’d say season three’s Coven has Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Angela Basset but, truthfully, I think they have us. In fact, I suspect they have us exactly where they want us: transfixed.

(Oh, you read that right. Along with the talented mostly-recurring cast, we get The Unholy Trinity of Seriously Great Actresses. Right there? Wow.)

These grand dames are so incredibly compelling, I can’t even put my hands over my face to peek through my fingers on the scary or gross parts.

Lange is arguably at her most bewitching (pun intentional) delivering what never feels like script and looking ravishing while doing it, and this woman’s mojo has its own zip code. Add some Bates for serious trauma and Basset for absolute impact and… well, that’s all the show would ever need to ever be an instant success and sure-fire cult classic.

But the break out success here is Lily Rabe as Misty Day. She plays this Stevie Nicks-lovin’ character so convincingly that I am easily persuaded to believe every crazy that spills from her resurrected lips.

Did I mention they finally got around to a real Frankenstein situation? Of all the monsters, there’s my favourite (the non-monster really but let’s not quibble) and I love the way they’re working it. Actor Evan Peters has the opportunity to burn this into our brains (and possibly our psyches) in a way the concept’s never been done before. I think we’re off to a running start, courtesy of Mare Winningham, and the squick factor’s off the charts on this one.

Bottom line? Television is populated. Saturated. And let’s be honest, most of it’s crap. But not this. This is stellar. If you’ve never seen the show, gnaw your way through the gristle and bone with the rest of us. American Horror Story will shock, amaze, disturb and amuse because, with Lange at the helm, nobody does it better. 

2 thoughts on “Why American Horror Story is the best show on television.

  1. I haven't watched this since the very first episode. It just didn't grab me. Now I admit this new season looks much more interesting to me and I've been thinking about giving it another shot. Gen is very convincing and the song clip is hilariously strange so I'll just have to sit down and take another look.

  2. Yeah, Yeah, I know…only 3 months late with my comments. I just read this post. When a friend of mine put me on to this show a couple of years ago, I wasn't looking forward to it. The way he sold it, it sounded strange (not the good strange either). Thank god I decided to give it a chance. I have to agree with Gen, this IS one of, if not the best show on TV. Sometimes it's not even the plot that makes me watch each episode (the second season had some very weird turns and dead ends), but the characters themselves. They can take the villian of the show and make you conversely hate & love them. For the most part there is no “fat” in this show, no fillers, everything is connected. The characters, their motives and actions all fit into the plot seamlessly.

    I am glad I'm not the only one who has found this TV treasure. I hope it goes on for years and years (if it keeps these high standards).

    Carlotta

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