American Horror Story

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American Horror Story
Ecran Titre d'American Horror Story.png
GenreDrama
Horror
Thriller
Anthology
Created byRyan Murphy
Brad Falchuk
StarringVarious
Theme music composerCesar Davila-Irizarry
Charlie Clouser
Composer(s)James S. Levine
(original music, pilot)
Country of originUnited States
Language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes12 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)Dante Di Loreto
Brad Falchuk
Ryan Murphy
Tim Minear
Producer(s)Alexis Martin Woodall
Patrick McKee
Editor(s)Bradley Buecker, ACE
Doc Crotzer
Location(s)Paramount Studios
Los Angeles, California
CinematographyChristopher Baffa, ASC
Camera setupSingle camera
Running time40-45 minutes (per episode)
Production company(s)20th Century Fox Television
Broadcast
Original channelFX
Original runOctober 5, 2011 (2011-10-05) – present
External links
Website
 
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American Horror Story
Ecran Titre d'American Horror Story.png
GenreDrama
Horror
Thriller
Anthology
Created byRyan Murphy
Brad Falchuk
StarringVarious
Theme music composerCesar Davila-Irizarry
Charlie Clouser
Composer(s)James S. Levine
(original music, pilot)
Country of originUnited States
Language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes12 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)Dante Di Loreto
Brad Falchuk
Ryan Murphy
Tim Minear
Producer(s)Alexis Martin Woodall
Patrick McKee
Editor(s)Bradley Buecker, ACE
Doc Crotzer
Location(s)Paramount Studios
Los Angeles, California
CinematographyChristopher Baffa, ASC
Camera setupSingle camera
Running time40-45 minutes (per episode)
Production company(s)20th Century Fox Television
Broadcast
Original channelFX
Original runOctober 5, 2011 (2011-10-05) – present
External links
Website

American Horror Story is a horror-drama television series created and produced by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. The first season centered on the Harmon family: Ben, Vivien and their daughter Violet, who move from Boston to Los Angeles after Vivien had a miscarriage and Ben had an affair. They move into a restored mansion, unaware that the home is haunted by its former inhabitants. The second season will feature new characters and a new location, namely an insane asylum. Thus, the series has been called an anthology. The second season is titled American Horror Story: Asylum.

The series is broadcast on the cable television channel FX in the United States. It premiered on October 5, 2011,[1] and has completed its first season. The series has been renewed for a second season,[2] which will premiere on October 17, 2012.[3]

American Horror Story was well received by television critics and fans. The cast was generally praised, particularly Jessica Lange.[4][5][6] The series drew consistently high ratings for the FX network, ending its first season as the biggest new cable series of the year.[7]

Contents

Production

Conception

What you saw in the finale was the end of the Harmon house. The second season of the show will be a brand-new home or building to haunt. Just like this year, every season of this show will have a beginning, middle and end. [The second season] won't be in L.A. It will obviously be in America, but in a completely different locale.

— Murphy on American Horror Story's anthology format.[8]

Creators Murphy and Falchuk began working on American Horror Story before their Fox series Glee began production. Murphy wanted to do the opposite of what he had done previously and thus began his work on the series. He stated, "I went from Nip/Tuck to Glee, so it made sense that I wanted to do something challenging and dark. And I always had loved, as Brad had, the horror genre. So it just was a natural for me."[9] Falchuk was intrigued by the idea of putting a different angle on the horror genre, stating that their main goal in creating the series was to scare viewers. "You want people to be a little bit off balance afterwards," he said.[10] The dark tone of the series is modeled after the ABC soap opera Dark Shadows, which Murphy’s grandmother forced him to watch when he was younger to toughen him up.[11] Murphy and Falchuk drew inspiration from real life crimes. Murphy noted tour buses that go by Sharon Tate's house and clubs devoted to murder re-creations.[12] He stated that the series explores people's general obsession with crime and murder. "It’s a way to circumvent your own anxiety in very anxious times," he said. "In times of economic anxiety, if you look at the template, two genres flourish: horror and musicals. I think people want to either be scared or completely forget about their troubles. As we go further into the series, we get into the economic anxieties."[12] Murphy's other inspiration for the show came from the AMC series The Walking Dead, which premiered in 2010.[12] He called it "the greatest TV viewing experience" of his life last year.[12] Falchuk noted that American Horror Story's scariest moments to him come from the emotional drama that the Harmons must contend with, as opposed to the violent scenes.[12]

In February 2011, FX officially announced that it had ordered a pilot for a possible series from Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, with both Murphy and Falchuk writing and Murphy directing. Dante Di Loreto was announced as executive producer. Production on the series began in April 2011.[13] In July 2011, FX officially announced the project had been picked up to series.[14]

From the beginning, Murphy and Falchuk planned that each season of the series would tell a different story.[8] After the first season finale aired, Murphy spoke of his plans to change the cast and location for the second season.[15] He did say, however, that some actors who starred in the first season would be returning. "The people that are coming back will be playing completely different characters, creatures, monsters, etc. [The Harmons'] stories are done. People who are coming back will be playing entirely new characters," he announced.[8]

Casting

Season 1

Casting announcements began in March 2011, with Connie Britton first to be cast, portraying female lead Vivien Harmon.[16] Britton stated that she took a risk in taking the role of Vivien. When Murphy presented the role to her he said "This is something we've never seen you do before. It will be turning what you've just been doing on its ear." She was intrigued by what he had presented her and ultimately decided to take the part.[17] In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, series co-creator Ryan Murphy stated that he had told Connie Britton, early on, that her character Vivien would die in the first season. "We’ve really had the whole season mapped out from the beginning," he said. "In the meetings with the core actors, the three leads being Connie, Dylan [McDermott] and Jessica [Lange], as we tried to snare them we were able to say this is where you start, this is the middle, and this is where you end up. So, yes, I was able to tell Connie really the whole run of the series."[18]

Denis O’Hare joined the cast in late March 2011 as Larry Harvey.[19] Jessica Lange joined the cast in April 2011 as Constance, marking her first regular role on television.[20] Lange was attracted to the role because it didn't require a 22-episode commitment like a series on a broadcast network. "That was huge for me!" she said. "I wasn’t about to commit to, you know, six months. It was cable, rather than network. …I’ve been offered network [shows] before, and determined not to do it, just because I can’t make that kind of time commitment."[21]

Dylan McDermott was cast as the lead Ben Harmon in late April 2011. His character was initially described as "a handsome and masculine but sensitive therapist who loves his family but has hurt his wife."[22] McDermott stated that he wanted to do the role to break away from his previous role as Bobby Donnell in the ABC series The Practice. "This was exactly why I wanted to do this show—to change it up and do a different kind of character. People think of me as the guy from ‘The Practice’ …I wanted to turn that [notion] on its head and hopefully I’m doing that [with this show]", he said.[23]

In May 2011, Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters were the last actors to be cast, portraying Violet Harmon and Tate Langdon, respectively.[24] Farmiga said that she loved Violet "immediately" and that "She had spunk to her, she had attitude."[25] Murphy has described Tate as the "true monster" of the series, adding: "To Evan’s great credit and the credit of the writers, I think Evan’s done an amazingly difficult job making a monster sympathetic."[26]

Season 2

In March 2012, Murphy revealed that the second season had been conceptualized around Jessica Lange, saying: "This will really be the Jessica Lange show so I’m very excited about it. We are designing this amazing new opposite of the Constance character for her. She and I have spoken about different things. She has a lot of ideas, and has a lot of input into her character. She told me some things she has always wanted to play as an actress. Lange's character is Sister Jude, a sadistic nun.[27] Zachary Quinto, who had a recurring role as Chad in the first season, was confirmed as one of the male leads in March 2012, portraying Dr. Thredson, a psychiatrist with groundbreaking treatment methods that go against Sister Jude's.[28][29] Quinto has stated that his new character is sane and very grounded.[30] At the William S. Paley Television Festival, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, and Lily Rabe were confirmed to return as main cast members in the second season.[31] Paulson will portray Lana, a lesbian reporter whose own girlfriend has her committed to the asylum.[32] Rabe's character is Sister Mary Eunice, second-in-charge to Lange's Sister Jude.[33] Peters will play the role of Kit Walker, a man who's accused of murdering his wife, Alma (Olford), but he claims she was abducted by aliens.[34] Murphy has stated that Peters, "who was last season’s ultimate badass bad boy", will be the hero of the show this year.[35]

It was reported in March 2012 that Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine was in negotiations to appear in the second season. He will be playing Leo, a "contemporary character and half of a couple known only as 'The Lovers'", according to Tim Stack of Entertainment Weekly.[36][37] Levine revealed to E! in June 2012 that his character is "newly married and I go with my wife on our honeymoon," he stated. "I don’t want to tell you too much... but it's gory."[38] Jenna Dewan will play his wife, Teresa.[39] In April 2012, Lizzie Brocheré was cast to play Grace, a character described as "a fierce, ferocious, extremely sexual, and dangerous wild-child sexpot" to rival Jessica Lange's new character.[40] In May 2012, James Cromwell signed on to co-star as Dr. Arthur Arden, a man who works in the asylum, and may be a Nazi.[41][42][43] Chloë Sevigny will play the role of Shelly the Nymphomaniac, a woman who likes sex too much and her husband has her placed in the asylum.[35][44] In June 2012, actor Joseph Fiennes joined the main cast as Monsignor Timothy Howard, a possible love interest for Jessica Lange's Sister Jude.[43][45][46] Also in June 2012, Chris Zylka was cast to play Daniel, who is touted as "the most beautiful boy in the world and a deaf mute".[47] However, in September he was replaced by another actor.[48] Britne Oldford was cast in the recurring role of Alma, another patient at the institution.[49] In July 2012, Mark Consuelos was cast as a patient named Spivey.[50] Also in July, Clea DuVall and Franka Potente were cast in an unspecified roles.[51][52] On August 6, 2012, Blake Sheldon was cast in the dual role of Devon and Cooper, both described as "tall, thin and psychopathic."[53] In September 2012, Frances Conroy was cast to play "the ultimate angel", according to Murphy on his Twitter page.[54]

Filming

Murphy was looking for a house that could be appropriately creepy but also attractive.

The pilot episode was shot on location in a house in Country Club Park, Los Angeles, California, which serves as the haunted house and crime scene in the series. Designed and built in 1902 by Alfred Rosenheim, the president of the American Institute of Architects' Los Angeles chapter, the Tudor or Collegiate Gothic-style single family home was previously used as a convent.[55][56] An adjoining chapel was removed from exterior shots using CGI.[57]

The series is filmed on sets that are an exact replica of the house.[58] Details such as Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows, and hammered bronze light fixtures, were re-created to preserve the look of the house.[55]

Due to a "very aggressive" production schedule and the series' pilot shoot having to wait for co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's other show, Glee, to wrap its second season production, it was announced that the show's first season finale would be thirty minutes shorter than planned. An option was given to Murphy by the network to drop the thirteenth episode altogether and air an hour-long finale, but Murphy came up with a plan to expand the twelfth episode into ninety minutes.[59] The episode aired on December 21, 2011.

Production and shooting for the second season began in late July 2012 for a scheduled premiere in mid October.[60] The exteriors for the second season are being filmed in Hidden Valley, Ventura County, California, a rural area outside Los Angeles.[61]

Title sequence

The opening title sequence was created by Kyle Cooper and his company Prologue. He also created the title sequence for the AMC series The Walking Dead and the 1995 film Se7en. The theme music was composed by sound designer Cesar Davila-Irizarry and musician Charlie Clouser.[62] The cinematography was done by Juan Ruiz Anchía and the editing by Gabriel J. Diaz.

For the first season, the sequence is set in the Harmons' basement and includes images of postmortem young children, fetuses in jars, skulls, a christening dress, a nurse's uniform, and a figure holding a pair of bloody hedge clippers. Murphy described the sequence as a mini-mystery and stated that "By the time you see the ninth episode of this season, every image in that title sequence will be explained".[63]

The second season's opening sequence will be different but done by the same creative team. "We are shooting a new title sequence with the same team that did last year's," series creator Ryan Murphy said. "The song may stay...not sure."[64]

Cast and characters

Season one

Season two

Overview

The first season takes place in 2011 and is themed on infidelity. The story follows the Harmon family: Ben (Dylan McDermott), Vivien (Connie Britton) and teenage daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), who move from Boston to Los Angeles after Vivien gives birth to a stillborn baby and Ben has an affair with Hayden (Kate Mara), one of his students. The family moves to a restored mansion, unaware that the house is haunted. Ben and Vivien try to rekindle their relationship, as Violet, suffering from depression, finds comfort with Tate Langdon (Evan Peters), one of Ben's new patients. Neighbor Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) and disfigured Larry Harvey (Denis O'Hare) routinely and frequently affect the Harmons' lives. The Harmons' lives are further complicated when Hayden comes to L.A. in an attempt to win Ben's love and is subsequently murdered, and Vivien has sex with both Ben and a mysterious man in a rubber suit, whom she believed to be her husband. It was later revealed to be Tate who resides there as a ghost with a secret agenda. Vivien ends up pregnant with twins, one fathered by each man. Violet commits suicide in fear of Tate's true nature. Several ghosts in the house, including Tate and Hayden, conspire to acquire the babies, once they are born. Vivien gets committed to a mental hospital by Ben once she realizes the truth about the house. After her release, she plans on moving to Florida but unexpectedly gives birth to the twins in the house and dies from labor. The first twin dies moments after birth, but the second one lives. Vivien's and Violet's ghosts urge Ben to flee the house. In doing so, Ben is confronted by Hayden, who hangs him. The Harmons are now reunited as a family again and are stuck there forever to scare future residents out of the house. Upon finding Ben's body, Constance abducts the baby. The series then jumps ahead three years to reveal that Constance has continued to raise her grandson Michael in secrecy. She discovers, however, that he has violently murdered his nanny.

The second season, which will be known as American Horror Story: Asylum, will premiere on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 on FX.[35] It was renewed by the network in October 2011.[65] In December 2011, series co-creator Ryan Murphy announced his plans to change the characters and location for the second season.[7] The setting will be an institution for the criminally insane in the year 1964, with Jessica Lange's new character as the head of the asylum. It will be themed on sanity.

Promotion

As part of the promotion for the series, FX launched a "House Call" campaign, in which viewers at home could sign up and come face-to-face with a character from the series.[66]

Prior to the series premiere, FX released several clues to shine light on the series. They were offered on the show's official YouTube channel. Ten clues were released, entitled "Cello", "Baby", "Couples", "Coffin", "Lying Down", "Fire", "Stairs", "Melt", "Red Cello", and "Rubber Bump".[67]

In September 2011, FX launched a website which allows visitors to tour the murder house throughout the decades and look for clues.[68]

In August 2012, the first promo for the second season was released on the American Horror Story Facebook page entitled "Special Delivery", in which a nun carries a couple of buckets filled with body parts through a field. As a church bell rings, the nun empties one bucket's bloody contents, leaving the empty bucket behind, and resumes her trek.[69]

Several subsequent teasers have been released. They are titled "Blue Coat", "Hydrobath", "White Rose", "Ascend", "Glass Prison", "White Rave", "Red Rave", "Taste", "Bandages", "Fork", "Stitches", "Save Us", "Hellevator", "Slipping", "Veiled", "Spinning", "Exam", "The Woods", "Spiral", "Awakening", "Door" and "Face" .[70] Four photos were also released on EW.com.[71] Two televised teasers, titled "Meet the Residents", were released on August 31, 2012. Actors with star billing include Adam Levine, Lily Rabe, Evan Peters, Chloe Sevigny, Sarah Paulson, Zachary Quinto, Joseph Fiennes, James Cromwell and Jessica Lange. It features the patients and some staff (such as Dr. Thredson, played by Quinto and Sister Eunice, played by Rabe) lying in twin beds and dealing with their individual issues as the heads of the asylum (Lange, Fiennes and Cromwell) look on. The song "Que Sera, Sera", mixed with the show's theme music, plays.[72]

Broadcast

The series premiered on October 5, 2011, and is broadcast on the cable television channel FX, in the United States. In November 2011, it premiered internationally on the respective countries' Fox International Channels.[73]

Reception

Critical reception

American Horror Story has received generally positive reviews from critics. The first episode scored 62 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 30 reviews.[74] Ken Tucker from Entertainment Weekly awarded the pilot episode a B+, stating "AHS is pretty much all scare, all the time: a whole lotta screams, sex, jolts, mashed faces, psychotic behavior, and dead babies."[75] Chuck Barney of the San Jose Mercury News said "Most TV shows, after all, quickly fade from memory. This one will haunt your dreams."[76] Hank Stuever from The Washington Post said in his review that "Overdoing things is one of Murphy's trademark flaws, but this show has a captivating style and giddy gross-outs."[77] The New York Times' Mike Hale calls the show "a more classically minded chiller," taking into mind the success of HBO's True Blood and AMC's The Walking Dead.[78] Not all reviews were favorable: Alan Sepinwall of HitFix gave the series a D−, saying, "It is so far over the top that the top is a microscopic speck in its rearview mirror, and so full of strange sounds, sights and characters that you likely won't forget it—even though many of you will wish you could."[79] The Los Angeles Times' Mary McNamara gave it a mixed review, stating that it "...collapses into camp...upon more than one occasion" but also noting that it is "hard to look away."[80]

Ratings

The pilot episode gained a 1.6 ratings share among adults aged 18–49 and garnered 3.2 million viewers,[81] and totalled 5.2 million between two airings.[82] These were the best numbers FX had ever received for a series premiere.[83] Taken together with equally strong numbers for the station's returning original series – Sons of Anarchy, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The League – the episode helped make October the most-watched month on FX ever.[84] The episode was seen by 3.2 million viewers total in 59 countries.[85]

Ratings increased as the season progressed, with the fourth episode receiving a 1.7 ratings share among adults 18-49, a tenth of a point higher than the pilot episode.[86] The seventh episode had a viewership of 3.06 million, receiving a 1.8 ratings share in the 18-49 demographic; a series high.[87][88] The season finale was watched by 3.22 million viewers and received a 1.7 ratings share in the 18-49 demographic.[89] The first season tied with the TNT series Falling Skies as the biggest new cable series of the year among adults 18-49.[7]

American Horror Story's November 2011 international premiere across Europe and Latin America, on Fox International Channels, drew rankings of first or second among all Pay-TV in most metered markets for its time slot. In the UK, it premiered on non-terrestrial channel FX, with 128,200 viewers. The second episode saw an increase of 27%, receiving an overall viewership of 158,700.[90]

Awards and nominations

References

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