(Note: I haven’t seen this week’s episode, so this praise is based on the first three episodes. But the Onion AV club his been slowing raising their episode ratings with each weekly review. Which means they are coming around to this, which also possibly means the death of a good thing.)
This team created Nip/Tuck, which got more and more insane each season. It just got too ridiculous to watch by the end. But since American Horror Story is starting out so confused/absurd/contradictory/stupid/derivative/histrionic I think it has to a real change to go down as one of the nuttiest show in history. It’s very bad on a structural level too: character is inconsistent, exposition is inept (that’s very common in TV, though) and plotting is laughable — except for when it’s nonexistent. Its main protagonist is unlikeable. And I don’t mean unsympathetic in some Tony-Soprano-Robbie-Coltrane-in-Cracker-Bryan-Cranston way. I mean awful. He’s a weaselly, pathetic coward. A Hey-I’m-you’re-Dad-but-I-need-your-approval-more-than-you-need-parenting-so-I’m-not-going-to-narc-on-you-for-smoking kind of father. His practice is doing poorly, possibly because he is the worse therapist in
L.A. In the first episode we see him standing in front of window naked, masturbating and crying. He’s sort of gone downhill as a mass of jelly in human form from there. A great challenge for the generally appealing actor, Dylan Mcdermott.
Jessica Lange is excellent in her role, seemingly embracing whole-heartedly the southern-gothic-drag-queen nature of her role. Connie Britton, the hot mom from Friday Night Lights, plays the hot mom here. She’s brave and smart. However, the necessities of a weekly narrative format prevent her from doing anything sensible over the next five seasons, so as compensation (and skilled compensation it is) she wears the anxiety of that tension on her face in practically every scene. The sole misfire as a character (not the actor’s fault) is the daughter — who is identical to the morose, snotty, unhappy adolescent daughter on every other show. It would be hard to send this character over the top, because every show pretty much does that already. Maybe they should do an about face on this and rip off another archetype entirely: Rory.
It’s the fiction conceit of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace with better production values, done for reals, with other people’s money. I have no idea whether the creators are having a laugh, or are a joke. Possibly, as with their other masterpiece, the first season of Glee, both. I like to think both. I don’t see any value in thinking otherwise, except the easy pleasure of feeling superior without effort through ironical viewings, which I am choosing to stay away from. American Horror Story is as if someone watched every big mainstream horror movie since The Shining while having the flu, puked up all over Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive, looked upon this result and saying, “oh, we are do doing this.” I love it.