Why 'American Horror Story' is the smartest show on television

American Horror Story
American Horror Story logo

By Christine Puza

Moving into its third season, “American Horror Story,” the hit FX television show created by Ryan Murphy, has gained a huge following. Not all of the show’s fans have been on board since season one. In fact, not all of these fans have even seen the first two seasons.

How is this possible? How are viewers following season three without prior knowledge of the past two? Ryan Murphy is a genius, that’s how.

Unlike most television series that build a plot up season upon season, “American Horror Story” kills the plot at the end of each season, building a brand new story every October when the show premieres. Of course this concept is a risky one, and Murphy decided to make it even riskier by using some of the same actors in each season, just giving them different characters to play. It is a confusing concept and I must admit after falling in love with the characters in season one’s Murder House, I was nervous that the second season, AHS: Asylum, would let me down. Of course it did not.

As Asylum approached its premiere date, I remember multiple friends of mine frantically saying they needed to watch season one so they could be caught up. After a few attempts at trying to explain that they didn’t need to catch up because each season is completely different, all their responses were the same: “Oh wow, that’s cool!”

Ryan Murphy
” AHS and Glee creator Ryan Murphy

This concept of rebuilding each season but keeping the same actors is not only satisfying to viewers, but it also helps increase the number of viewers each season. Murphy’s brilliant idea has more new viewers tuning in every Wednesday at 10 p.m., while shows like AMC’s “Breaking Bad” had the majority of fans becoming hooked on Netflix.

The only complaint (if you would even call it that) of mine would be the confusion behind returning actors and actresses as new characters. Some recurring faces throughout the series so far include of course the lovely Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Zachary Quinto, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Taissa Farminga,  Dennis O’Hare, Dylan McDermont, Frances Conroy, Jamie Brewer, and Alexandra Breckenridge.

So far throughout season three I continue to call Evan Peter’s character simply “Evan Peters” (but maybe that’s because I have a serious crush on him as an actor). I still call Taissa Farminga’s character Zoe “Violet,” referring to season one. Changing the names of these familiar faces season after season is definitely an overload on the mind, but at least it keeps you on your toes. You might just need to keep a name chart on your coffee table as a friendly reminder of who’s who.

So for those of you who have not given “American Horror Story” a chance, do not be afraid. You have a whole year to decide if you want to become hooked on next season. If you like what you see, you can always watch the rest of Murphy’s mind-bending madness unfold on Netflix. You won’t regret it.