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Can American Horror Story do for Ghost Tales What Glee Did for Show Choirs?

August 19, 2011

If you’ve watched any amount of the FX channel in the past few weeks, you’ve no doubt been privy to a bundling of surreally creepy images accompanied with the title of FX’s new October-debuting program American Horror Story. A creepy person staring at you in bondage gear. A strange doll (or is it a real baby?). The only real way you’d know anything more about this show is if you hunted down information on the subject yourself on the internet, since the television promos serve to do little but pique your strange interests.

Once you have garnered information on the show yourself, just like I did, you’d realize that American Horror Story is the child of Glee producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. It centers around a normal-ish family, headed by Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) and Dylan McDermott (My Best Friend’s Wedding) as a couple with children who’ve moved into a big, spooky, haunted mansion in Los Angeles. Based on the stylization of the bumpers for American Horror Story, though, it would seem that this is anything but your standard Discovery-channel-hokey-ghost-re-enactment type of program. Right out of the gate it seems over-the-top, supremely weird, and definitely intriguing.

At the risk of drawing Ryan Murphy’s ire — it’s well-established that he doesn’t like people calling him out on anything — I should admit that I’m not a fan of Glee. I know everyone else in the world, including my mother, thinks it’s absolutely amazing, and I’ve actually tried at several times to watch full episodes of the runaway hit. I just don’t get it. Further, I don’t understand why the iTunes charts consistently prove that we as a people would rather listen to a high school pop choir sing our favorite songs rather than listen to the artists themselves, who we can assume did them right the first time or they wouldn’t be famous songs, sing their hits. But I will say this: Ryan Murphy seems to know how to create a sensation, and Glee has indeed made millionaires of all involved, and for that he should be commended. 

Let’s also admit that Murphy and Falchuk have a knack for spinning normal conventions. Because let’s face it, if I’d told you on the street that you really need to watch this TV show about a high school choir where they break into a lot of music before you knew what Glee was, you likely would have blown something like that off. But Glee has taken a premise like that and made a worldwide phenomenon of it. That’s pretty savvy showrunning, if you ask me. 

I mention all this about Glee because it would seem that if Murphy and Falchuk can spin the jazz-handsing world of competitive high school group singing in a way that makes everyone watch it, it definitely intrigues me as to what the pair can do with the well-worn ground of “family moves into a haunted house.” There have been so many movies on this subject over the years that they barely register in the box office anymore (anyone remember the recent A Haunting in Connecticut? No?) — even a remake of The Amityville Horror, arguably the most world-famous example of this premise, was pretty much a gigantic flop. But FX is ramping up its original programming, and doing quite well at such, and a take on the horror conventions by Murphy and Falchuk could be pretty interesting. Hell, if Lost’s Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof said they were doing a Civil War drama, you’d probably watch it based on the storytelling acumen of Lost alone, right? 

So I don’t find a lot of glee in Glee — it doesn’t mean I don’t think that Murphy and Falchuk have a tremendous amount of narrative skill. And according to early reports (Entertainment Weekly headlined it with “Eeek!” and NPR called it “keee-razy” and “a sex-filled gorefest”), the show seems to be quite interesting, campy and indeed scary.

Everything’s being revamped these days, from buddy comedies (Superbad, The Hangover) to slasher movies (Hostel, Saw) to Superman and Batman(the umpteenth re-takes on these stories are coming in the next couple of years). But the ghost story genre is one which is far overdue to be revamped. Perhaps Murphy and Falchuk are just the team to do it; and what say you, Gleeks? Do you have faith in your fearless leader to carry out a serialized ghost story and bring it satisfyingly home like all ghost stories should? You can check out the promo bumps from FX on the show’s YouTube site here. Thoughts?

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