“American Horror Story” premiered last Wednesday to a lukewarm reception from critics and television audiences alike. Being fans of Ryan Murphy and connoisseurs of weird Los Angeles tales, of both the non-fictional and fictional varieties, Surreal L.A. was waiting with baited breath for this new FX series. The bottom line: it’s more “Nip/Tuck” meets “American Gothic” than it is “Glee,” but is it authentic L.A.? We examine further:
The Setting: Old Victorian home surrounded by mature trees and squeaky fence. This perplexes us, as we’ve often thought of Los Angeles as full of houses made of “ticky-tacky,” not tall and narrow with cone-shaped turrets. Clearly, Murphy and co. were honing in on one particular area of Los Angeles. The fictional Harmon family must have moved from their hometown of Boston to Angelino Heights, adjacent to Echo Park and Silver Lake, just minutes from downtown Los Angeles. In the late 19th century, Angelino Heights was home to a well-to-do slice of the middle class, and to this day contains some rather exquisite examples of Victorian architecture. Fun fact: the 1300 block of Carroll Avenue is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
- Mental illnesses: Check.
- Obsessions with appearance: Not quite.
- Creepy Southern next-door neighbor: Say what? No offense, but given the supposed locale of the aforementioned Victorian home, it would have been much more appropriate (and interesting) for the neighbor to be an abuelita. Just saying. Although Jessica Lange is fantastic.
- Teenagers with issues: Isn’t this everywhere?
- Cocaine addiction: Check.
Unless they add some hipster artists, a nice representation of the ethnically diverse L.A. population, and a few injected ladies that lunch, we’re just not sure that these characters are true Angelinos (Boston transplants not included).
The Plot: The set-up is a nice homage to “Beetlejuice”: Dysfunctional family with rebellious teenage daughter and serious marital problems move into creepy old home with even creepier history, forsaking all warnings of potential evil spirits lurking in the basement. Why? The house is cheap. “We’ll take it!” chirps young Violet Harmon, after hearing that the previous owners were slaughtered there (an apparent murder-suicide). What ensues is a series of psycho-sexual encounters, creepy lurkers meddling and an occasional ghostly visitation.
Survey Says: Given that Los Angeles is the 5th most haunted city in Los Angeles and full of, frankly speaking, freaks and geeks of all shapes and sizes, we think the Harmon family (full of personal horrors just as spooky as those hiding in their Angelino Heights palace) may fit right in. We just hope the bizarro world that executive producers Murphy and Brad Falchuk have created starts to make some sense…c’mon guys, less spook and circumstance, more good old fashioned story telling.
The second episode of “American Horror Story” airs Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 10pm PT/ET on FX.