Friday, September 12, 2014

American Horror Story: Freakshow

The new season of American Horror Story will debut this year on October 8th, just in time for the season of spooky.  This marks the fourth season of AMH and in keeping with the pattern established as of the second season, we have an entirely new story featuring several of the cast of previous seasons.  This season's story is entitled Freak Show and is set in a carnival.  Again we have a classic American horror concept, which is what AHS is all about.  It is American Horror Story, after all.

The description from FX's website is as follows:
American Horror Story: Freak Show begins its tale in the quiet, sleepy hamlet of Jupiter, Florida. The year is 1952. A troupe of curiosities has just arrived to town, coinciding with the strange emergence of a dark entity that savagely threatens the lives of townsfolk and freaks alike. This is the story of the performers and their desperate journey of survival amidst the dying world of the American carny experience.

Sounds good to me.  I'm a sucker for the carnival setting and I love freaks.  I mean that in the nicest way possible.
Let's say you are not the ideal of your species.  People are going to whisper.  They are going to point and laugh, if not to your face then behind your back.  If you were ever an outcast at school or the object of a bully's attention then you know what I mean.  Wouldn't you rather be paid for the suffering?
Many a so-called freak has had that very attitude.  P.T. Barnum made famous people that would otherwise have been treated horribly for no reason other than they were different.  I like the sideshow.  I like the way if forces us to appreciate our normality while, secretly, wishing we too were special.
But those are my personal feelings.  Don't take them as good or bad.  In the medieval era people had similar feelings I am given to understand.

As for AHS, I truly enjoy this show and am glad to see it surviving, nay thriving, in today's market.  I believe the secret to its success is not the shock factor, although there is plenty of that, but its anthology approach.  We don't see the anthology series these days.  Television series such as The Twilight Zone, Monsters, Tales from the Darkside, Tales from the Crypt, Night Gallery and The Outer Limits were all great anthologies.  Each episode was a different story with a different cast, writers, directors and settings.  Anthologies are like comic books (indeed Tales from the Crypt was a comic book) with a variety of stories, some better than others, but generally of a type. The creators of AHS have cleverly chosen to make each season a complete story with a start, middle and ending.  Complete stories satisfy us on a primal level.  By using much of a the same actors from season to season, but casting them in different types of roles we get a feeling of the familiar while getting a new story.  For an actor this is probably a nice change as well since so often I read how actors become bored with a role over a long period of time and begin to feel the need to find a new challenge.  It's a win-win scenario.
Most series work from the principle of a continuing story using a plot arc for a season, wrapping that up with a few loose threads for the next season and often employing a cliffhanger to keep the audience interested in returning.  There is nothing wrong with that save that after a certain point the series tends to have run out of ideas, usually by season 5.
AHS neatly avoids that problem.  As long as a new complete story is worth watching, this show will remain.

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