American Horror Story is a horror television series created and produced by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. Described as an anthology series, each season is conceived as a self-contained miniseries, following a disparate set of characters and settings, and a storyline with its own “beginning, middle, and end.”
The first season, subsequently subtitled Murder House, takes place in Los Angeles in 2011 and follows the story of a family that moves into a home haunted by its former deceased occupants.
The second season, subtitled Asylum, takes place in Massachusetts in 1964 and follows the stories of the inhabitants of an institution for the criminally insane.
The third season, subtitled Coven, takes place in New Orleans in the 1800s and 2013 and follows the battle between witches and voodoo practitioners.
The fourth season, subtitled Freak Show, takes place in Jupiter, Florida in 1950 and follows one of the few remaining American freak shows.
The fifth season, entitled Hotel, stars Lady Gaga.
The series is broadcast on the cable television channel FX in the United States. It premiered on October 5, 2011. The series was renewed for a second season, starting on October 17, 2012. Returning cast members like Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters and Lily Rabe (all playing new roles) were joined by James Cromwell, Joseph Fiennes and Chloë Sevigny.
American Horror Story was well received by television critics and fans. The cast was generally praised, particularly Jessica Lange. The series drew consistently high ratings for the FX network, ending its first season as the biggest new cable series of the year.
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Season 1: Murder House (2011)
The first season, retroactively titled American Horror Story: Murder House, is about infidelity. The story takes place in 2011 and follows the Harmon family: psychiatrist Ben (Dylan McDermott), his wife Vivien (Connie Britton), and their teenage daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), who move from Boston to Los Angeles after Vivien has a miscarriage and Ben has an affair. The Harmons move into a restored mansion and soon encounter the home’s former residents, the Langdons – Constance (Jessica Lange) and her two children, Tate (Evan Peters) and Addie (Jamie Brewer) – and the disfigured Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare). Ben and Vivien try to rekindle their relationship, as Violet, suffering from depression, finds comfort with Tate. The Langdons and Larry frequently influence the Harmons’ lives, as the family discovers that the home is haunted by the ghosts of anyone who has ever died on the property.
Season 2: Asylum (2012–13)
The second season is about sanity. The story takes place in 1964 and follows the patients, doctors and nuns who occupy the Briarcliff Mental Institution, founded to treat and house the criminally insane. The wardens who run the institution include the stern Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), her protégé Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) and the founder of the institution, Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes). The doctors charged with treating the patients at the asylum include psychiatrist Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) and the sadistic scientist Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell). The patients, many of whom claim to be unjustly institutionalized, include lesbian journalist Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), accused serial killer Kit Walker (Evan Peters), nymphomaniac Shelley (Chloe Sevigny) and alleged murderer Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré). Briarcliff’s inhabitants are routinely subject to supernatural and scientific influences, including demonic possession and extraterrestrial abduction.
Season 3: Coven (2013–14)
The third season is about oppression; specifically, the oppression of marginalized groups and female empowerment. After the Salem witch trials, descendants of the witches who survived are nearly extinct and are in danger once again. Those who share this unique bloodline are being subject to strange and violent attacks. A mysterious all-girls boarding school has opened in New Orleans to protect and house young women who carry this genetic affliction, and keep them from the dangers of the outside world. The long-absent Supreme, and most powerful witch of her generation, Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), arrives to ensure the safety of the coven, but also to fulfill her own hidden agenda. Fiona’s daughter, Cordelia (Sarah Paulson), teaches at the school and welcomes its newest student, Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga), who harbors her own harrowing secret. Events reveal a long-held rivalry between the witches of Salem and the Voodoo practitioners of New Orleans, as well as a historic grudge between Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) and socialite serial killer Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates). Other themes include witchcraft, Voodoo, racism, and family, such as the relationships between mothers and daughters. The season is set primarily in the modern day and includes flashbacks to the early 1970s and the 1830s.
Season 4: Freak Show (2014–15)
The fourth season is set in Jupiter, Florida in 1952. It is centered around one of the few remaining freak shows at the time, as its members do anything to keep the business alive. The season focuses on the conflict between the freaks and the “evil forces” who do not understand them. The season also features a “clown killer” and a “bearded lady.
“Be warned though, this is a show for adults. It may not have as much nudity, blood or violence as shows on HBO and Showtime, though it is still adult oriented.” Cowabunga Corner
“There’s nothing particularly scary about this messy, overstuffed cartoon — successor to 2011’s first (and superior) season of American Horror Story. There is something offensive about it to Catholics and nuns: Especially nuns because, if anything, “Asylum” qualifies as an addition to the nunsploitation genre…” Newsday