'American Horror Story: Coven' breaks records and garners universal acclaim

Wednesday, 16 October 2013 - 10:07am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna webdesk

American Horror Story created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk is on of the most creatively driven and unique series on television today. First broadcast in 2011 by the cable television channel FX, the show didn't release many details about the plot of the first season. Murphy who previously worked with FX on Nip/Tuck is a writer who never really sticks to a particular genre, having also been a creator of Glee (a show that cannot be more different from American Horror Story).

After the first season concluded, Murphy and Falchak announced the show would be an anthology series and will recycle some of the cast members. The subsequent seasons would have some of the same cast members playing different roles and each season would be a standalone story-line with a different setting than the previous one. They would also have different supernatural elements, mythologies and would be based in different time periods.

The first season entitled American Horror Story: Murder House was the first look into the twisted and dark themes this series would come to be known by. The first season's main theme was infidelity, but also often focused on suicide, homicide, and obsession. The story-line revolved around the Harmon family, the father Ben (Dylan McDermott), Vivian (Connie Britton) and Violet (Taissa Farmiga) and them moving to Los Angeles after Ben has an affair. Little do they know that the house they bought is haunted by quite a few apparitions.

The first season garnered universal critical acclaim and was well received by audiences as well. It was nominated for a number of awards including the Golden Globe Award for Best  Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama. In addition, supporting cast member Jessica Lange who played Constance Langdon received widespread praise for her performance on the show, including being awarded the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series, and the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie.

After the announcement that the show was going to have standalone seasons and reuse the cast members, everyone wondered how that would work; if it could work at all. But it seems that Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchak knew what they were doing.

Many actors from the previous season including Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Zachary Quinto, Lily Rabe and Evan Peters returned portraying different characters. The second season entitled American Horror Story: Asylum once again received universal acclaim and the season garnered seventeen Primetime Emmy Award nominations, more than any other show. The performances of Jessica Lange, James Cromwell, Zachary Quinto, Sarah Paulson, and Lily Rabe were particularly praised, with Cromwell winning the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor. 

The second season took place in 1964 at the Briarcliff Mental Institution. The story-line taking place intermittently with past and present, followed the patients, doctors and nuns who occupy the institution. the second series explored various themes including, mental illness, aliens, demons and angels among others.


The third and latest season entitled American Horror Story: Coven began on October 9, 2013. This time around the series is exploring the mythology of witches, dating back to the Salem witch trials. This season combines past and present events as well, through flashbacks.

The story line focuses on the now dying breed of witches, almost extinct due to the Salem witch trials. The setting is New Orleans at a school where new witches are taught how to protect themselves. Jessica Lange plays a Supreme, Fiona who arrives after a long absence to take charge of the school headed by her daughter Cordelia, played by Sarah Paulson. The major themes of the season include witchcraft, incest, slavery and the mother-daughter relationship. The season alternates between modern day and the 1830s.

As with previous seasons, the new season has an ensemble cast including Sarah Paulson, Taissa Farmiga, Frances Conroy, Evan Peters, Lily Rabe, Misty Day, Emma Roberts, Denis O'Hare, Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange.

So far the season which has just begun has already received universal acclaim, and holds positive review with an average score of 84% on Rotten Tomatoes. It is also the highest rated season of the series and has broken its previous records in terms of ratings.

Although there have been shows that have taken advantage of the horror genre before, American Horror Story is a landmark in story-telling and conceptualisation which is only amplified by the stellar performances by its cast and the brilliance of its writers.

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