Sunday, January 1, 2012

Is American Horror Story "the New Lost"?

Since Lost went off air, all networks have been searching for "the NEW Lost".  Tough challenge, that. Lost changed watching television forever. Full of brilliant zigs and zags, with characters you loved but couldn't always trust, a desperate situation and big ol' dash of supernatural, Lost made television viewing more active than passive.  What do those numbers mean? What's that happening in the background in only a split frame? And later, if x happens in this world, how does that effect the other dimension? And that was all while you were watching.  Post-Lost discussions online and at water coolers everywhere could last for days.  Lost also changed the playing field with season to season mind blowers.  Who can forget the Season 4 opener where you don't realize until the end of the episode that, wait a minute... these aren't flashbacks! they're off the island!  Flashforwards! Brilliant.  (So brilliant that it makes me hate the end all over again. That's probably a whole other entry, or even a whole other blog. But I digress.)

And now we have American Horror Story.  So while not exactly following the blueprint for Lost, I think it's probably some of the most progressive television we have seen since Lost.  Do I think Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk set out to duplicate Lost? No, not exactly. I think they developed a series in earnest, with only their true vision as a guide. Sure, they have borrowed freely from many different horror films (Rosemary's Baby, The Shining), novels (Frankenstein) true crime stories (Black Dahlia) and history/mythology (Roanoke, every ghost story ever told). But truth be told, American Horror Story is not like anything else on TV right now.  Each week, bit by bit, you learn more about the horrific murders and events that took place in the house and the ghostly inhabitants that now dwell there.  As well, you learn about the living people, namely the Harmon family that moves in and their chaaaahming neighbor Constance, and their own dysfunction through flashbacks.  And you learn about house rules. Anyone who dies in the house comes back as a ghost. Sometimes they know they are ghosts, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they can be seen as live people. Sometimes they have sex with other ghosts, and sometimes with live people. And sometimes the rules change. Try to keep up. And holy wow, do they pack a whole lot into each episode. After an entire season of watching the Harmons move in and then try to get out of the house, the finale saw a new family move in and move out... in one episode.  And that wasn't even the main part of anything.  Horror purists might say that much of AHS is predictable, has been done before, is too all over the place (frankenstein baby+teenage mass murderer+deformed child in attic+recently dead ex-mistress+the black dahlia, all in one place?  wha?)... and I can understand this viewpoint, but I'm not sure I agree. Yes, each episode was sort of Horror Cuisinart, but ultimately it payed off (mostly). Certainly the more layers of Lost that revealed themselves led to more complex and interesting episodes. And I think the same philosophy is true here. Only AHS had a lot more going on from the start. So ambitious!

Well now we know why they pact so much stuff into each episode. It has been revealed that each season of AHS will be its own story. None of these characters (alive, dead or *sniff* house-form) that we have grown to care about will be in season 2. Now that is some daring television.  It's a bit unsettling to be sure, and certainly a gamble on the part of producers and Fox Entertainment. As a lover of TV (did you know?), I think it's so exciting that there is a new method to this mad television series. Am I bummed that we'll never know what happens to Constance and the demon child? Yes. That we may never know what happens to the next poor saps that move into the house?  Sure. That no one will ever don the rubber suit again? Absolutely. But as much as I will miss the characters (including the house), I think AHS has to be credited for pushing television along and I am so curious to see what next season brings.

In an article on, Doc Jensen talks about "the next Lost" and how, in his opinion, it still remains to be found (for whole article click here).  He even calls out AHS, along with The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones (two series you will see A LOT on this blog), as series that are trying but failing with viewership numbers to reach the golden Lost status.  Yes, I have likened The Walking Dead to Lost in that there are a bunch of survivors trying to get by, and who knows who these people are that crashed on this island have survived the zombie apocalypse?  And Game of Thrones is certainly smart and buzz worthy, but it is based on the brilliant books. Not a problem, just not original. Here's the thing:  when I think about Lost, I think about it being a series that was totally original, spectacularly different and actually raised the bar for television in general with its smart storytelling, etc. And yes, it was super popular. But I'm not sure that "the next Lost" is all about how many eyeballs see it.  (Aside: AHS is not doing too shabby and is also the most DVR'd show this year.) So, I think "the next Lost" could be here... "the new Lost" in the form of the boundary-pushing American Horror Story.  It's only been one season... I'm sure the eyeballs will come.


Trish A. said...

"Horror Cuisinart". Hee!

jenlight said...

I had heard that the Harmon's wouldn't be on, but I didn't realize this was the end of Constance and the Antichrist.
So, each season is a short story? That sounds potentially pretty great!

LCT said...

Yes, each season will be it's own self-contained story. Adding to the intrigue is that some actors may come back as different characters throughout the seasons. ALSO, to make things more interesting (and possibly more Lost-like), Ryan Murphy claims that there are hints in the "Birth" episode to where the next season may take place. Good stuff.