Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New Show Review: FX's American Horror Story

Connie Britton Stars in "American Horror Story"
Credit: FX

My review of the new series "American Horror Story" is after the jump.

Usually, before I review a series in this format on my site, I like to see more then one episode. Unfortunately, I was only able to see the pilot for American Horror Story, so everything I say in this review should have the giant asterisk that I have not seen a second episode. 

That being said, the pilot of the series gives a good idea of what the future series will be. The series will not be good in any way, shape, or form. This series loses itself in the crazy. This may be a series that will hit big, but (even if quality is not a determinant of success) based on the pilot, it should not hit big.

Honestly, I wonder what creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk were smoking while they wrote this series. It does not have a focus at all. It is literally a compilation of characters that have no reason to be close to each other and a house that has many defining characteristics and none of them combine well. It's a lot like Glee in that respect, except it goes into a even crazier direction.

The series focuses on Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton as Ben and Vivien Harmon. They move out to the west coast after Vivian catches Ben cheating on her. This may be a couple that may be one of the worst on television. Firstly, the show tries to explain why they are still together in the pilot, but that explanation doesn't sit with me. Vivien seems like the type of character who would not want to stick with that type of man. Secondly, McDermontt and Britton have no chemistry together whatsoever. They don't work as two actors working together, let alone a married couple. Based off the first 50 minutes of the series, I see no sense of any chemistry from these two people.

It doesn't help that Dylan McDermott is not giving any sort of performance at all. He essentially speaks at one volume, as loud as he possibly can. He brings nothing to the character. In fact, he helps make him an even more despicable man. There's a scene in the pilot when he is pining for something, and he seems to have no understanding of his wife's argument. His constant shouting does not help his character at all in that situation. Also, he spends about a quarter of it naked for no reason. That's not McDermontt's fault, but Murphy should not have done that.

Another reason to hate this show: it makes Connie Britton look like a horrible actress because she is trying. She is attempting to portray her character as serious. Given what her character has gone through over the past year in the series's timeline, she should be taken seriously. The problem is that the show surrounding her is not serious at all. She looks like the odd woman out. She is doing the best to make her character her own, but she seems like she is on a different show then everybody else. It's nothing against her, she is giving a great performance, it's just that this performance is on a higher caliber then anything else on this show. 

Then, there's the teenage daughter, Violet Harmon, played by newbie Taissa Farminga. Firstly, she has no relationship with her parents whatsoever. She is shoved off to the side very early into the pilot into her own plotline. I don't want to give away too much about it, but what I can tell you is that her being a cutter plays significantly into it. This plotline angers me because of how far it goes into the crazy.

Her plotline isn't helped by the presence of Evan Peters as Tate Landing. This may be my least favorite character of the series. The written tone of the character and Peters's performance don't work at all. He should be a peripheral character who exists in one scene to show that McDermontt's character is a therapist, but he isn't. The show tries to bring him beyond that brief appearance character, and it doesn't work. I wanted to stick a fork in my eye every time that he was on my screen.

It's not a good sign that I have listed many problems of the show, and I haven't even begun to discuss the craziness that is the Harmon's house. It has a history of murder, which the realtor conveniently told them before buying. The pilot doesn't go into too much detail with the mystery of the house, but it does drop many hints about the mythology.

Some of those hints come from three supporting characters. This is where the show almost gets something right. It cast three very talented actors in these roles, and they bring a certain level of creepiness to the series.

Jessica Lange is very good as the Harmon's neighbor, Constance. Lange is giving a very campy performance, and it works out well. Her character is the only character where I feel genuinely indifferent She chews scenery with the best of them. Her daughter on the other hand, is a very poorly conceived character. Murphy and Falchuk essentially takes all of the good will that it built up on Glee with a three dimensional character with Down Syndrome, and negates it completely with a character who is only there to provide creepiness.

There's also Dennis O'Hare as a burn victim. He is the first character for whom we get a backstory. I don't want to ruin it for you all, but he does a decent job telling it. He doesn't get much screentime in the pilot, so I don't have a full picture of the character yet, but what I did see works slightly.

There's also Alexandra Breckenridge and Francis Conroy who share the role of the young and old version of the maid. This role does nothing correctly, despite the best efforts by Conroy and Breckenridge to make the role work.

However, despite all the negativity, there's one thing that's really cool. The opening and closing credits for the series suggest a level of quality that the show cannot possibly match. Part of those credits is the super-awesome typeface. It may be the only thing that is awesome about this series.

I see no reason for this show to exist. Murphy and Falchuk have combined random elements into a series that does not work at all. These elements do not combine nicely into something great like everyone behind the show thinks they do. Instead, they exist on their own in the show. This is a horrendous mess. You should not watch this series at all costs.

American Horror Story premieres tonight at 10PM on FX, If you dare. 

1 comment:

  1. Dude... just want to say I like the way you write. Keep at it.


Some ground rules for you to follow when commenting here:
1. This is probably the most important rule: be nice. I will not tolerate any rudeness towards other commenters or myself.
2. Be relevant, comments will be deleted if they are not relevant to the discussion.
3. No spoilers, I and many other people don't want to know what your mother's, sister's, best friend's, brother said about what's going to happen on Chuck. There are many places for discussing what's going to happen on the show in the future, this isn't one of them.
4. Please hit preview to preview your comment before pressing post comment to be sure that it will be logged.

Thank you, keep reading, and enjoy the conversation!