I, too, was dismissive.
I had only seen the first five minutes of the pilot episode of "American Horror Story," the horror/drama/comedy/satire that's about to start its second season, and I shut it off. I thought: I've seen so many horror movies, what can a horror TV show possibly offer me?
To be fair to my quick-to-judge past self, the first segments of "AHS" are purely horror. There isn't much else. But one of the beauties of the show is after the first episode ends, you realize you're in for so much more than just simple scares and cheap effects; watching "AHS" feels like you're watching a book being acted out. It is, quite literally, a story and gothic come to life.
Not convinced? Here are several other reasons to watch "AHS."
Haven't Caught Up With The First Season? It Doesn't Matter
The first season is a closed book, so to speak. While the actors who appeared in the first season (Evan Peters, Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Frances Conroy) are returning in season 2, they're playing completely different characters. For example, Jessica Lange, who played the bizarre Constance in season 1 (and won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries/TV Movie!), will now be portraying a sadistic nun in season 2. Creator Ryan Murphy has confirmed that season 2 will revolve around her character, not the Harmon family, who were the main focus of season 1. Diehard viewers and newbies alike can revel in the new characters and the new story. Oh, and the second season is called "American Horror Story: Asylum," which is reason enough for me to watch it. Asylum!
It's Beautiful -- In More Ways Than One
The scenery and set design of season 1 are beautiful. I would imagine in an asylum for season 2, things will be a lot bleaker and darker. But even the blackest crannies in "AHS" season 1 were done perfectly, exactly, with not even a cobweb out of place. The cinematography is movie-quality, with rich colors (lots of reds, too) in every shot. The details are so minute and specific you can almost feel the gritty basement floor (or the slippery vinyl suit). Shudder. And lastly, the pitch-perfect casting gives us some beautiful people to look at; the sexiness of "AHS" is a quality that cannot be ignored.
Like A Horror Movie With Humor, Every Week
Are you a fan of the horror movies of yore? The "Nightmare On Elm Street" and "Critters" and "Child's Play" kinds of horror, where cheesy one-liners provide levity among the endless (and creative) deaths? Where you suffer through agonizing periods of suspense and slow build-up to witness another gruesome beheading or stabbing? What about watching characters continually venture into dark corners and down into the basement, even though you know they shouldn't? If this sounds like the kind of thing you enjoy, then this show is for you.
Guest Stars Add Spice To The Mix
The cast of "AHS" is so superb as it is -- great acting, compelling characters, realistic dialogue -- that to add more cooks to the kitchen seems like a bad idea. Instead, it's the exact opposite. Occasionally bringing in fresh faces helps spice up the show and provides another expendable body to the mix. So while you know they're probably going to perish, it's delicious to imagine how they're going to go. Seeing Eric Stonestreet ("Modern Family") struggle to utter the words "Here, piggy piggy piggy!" into a mirror is an epic journey in itself. (And, rejoice: Stonestreet just joined the cast for season 2.)
Sex, Swearing, Blood And Guts
It's shows like "AHS" that make it nearly impossible to go back to network television. With cursing, soft-core sex (some boobs, occasional bums), nods to/flashes of hard-core sex, lots of explicit gore and grotesqueness, the show is a showcase of what you were told not to watch as a child. It's no wonder this show set ratings records for FX -- it pushes the boundaries in every episode: Humans having sex with spirits? Eating raw animal placenta and brains to nourish a fetus? BDSM? They're all there.
But the best part of "AHS" is how it makes the everyday, mundane aspects of human life into the actual horror. So while the central crux of the show is the death and darkness, Murphy makes sure to highlight the horrors of family, relationships, parenting and love -- because when you think about it, that's the real scary stuff.
"American Horror Story" Season 1 comes out on DVD/Blu-ray on September 25. The second season premieres on FX and FX Canada on October 17.