‘Nip/Tuck’ was a show that I was enamored with as a great show, then lost interest, then was brought back in the hope that they could bring the show back and because, honestly, I wanted to see what happened to these characters I was enthralled by for so long. Ultimately, the show will go down as nothing special, even though it started with a bang and most definitely could have been great. What could have been is possibly what kept me watching it for seasons 4-6 even though it had clearly jumped the shark (black market organ harvesting?!?! Come on!).
That same reasoning is why I will tune in for all of Season 1 of ‘American Horror Story.’ If you haven’t guessed, AHS is created by the same man, Ryan Murphy, responsible for all that was Nip/Tuck. Murphy also has created the much more popular ‘Glee’ although I myself do not watch that show. Murphy has specialized in over-the-top his whole career and with a show like ‘Glee’ it pays off because that’s what people expect. ‘Nip/Tuck’ it didn’t because that show was based in reality and viewers ultimately couldn’t stomach what happened to the proprietors of McNamara/Troy.
Truth be told, AHS probably is closer to the ‘Nip/Tuck’ mold than ‘Glee’ where it’s based in reality but some supernatural extra-reality (if you will) events are obviously going to take place. We’ve already seen some with the comes-as-a-package-deal-with-the-creepy-house maid whom is a stern older woman when seen by Vivion Harmon, but when her philandering husband Ben gazes upon her he sees an unmistakable sexpot who enjoys taunting Ben with her sexuality right under the nose of his wife.
This provides an extra specific wrinkle as we are shown earlier in the show how Vivion walked in on Ben doing some “extra tutoring” with one of his students (Ben moonlights as a professor along with being a psychiatrist). In order to keep their marriage together they have decided to move to LA and the only decent house they can afford comes with the baggage of a murder-suicide by the two previous residents and some very peculiar surroundings.
While Dylan McDermot (‘The Practice’) is most likely slightly miscast as the unfaithful husband he still provides the necessary urgency as a father/family man as well as the slime-appeal to get us to realize that he could in fact cheat on a wife as perfect as his. McDermot is miscast if for no other reason than there is no way he can keep up with the awesome Connie Britton (‘Friday Night Lights’). Now, I have an unhealthy obsession with Britton due to her turn as Mrs. Taylor on the excellent if not underappreciated FNL.
Matter of fact, Britton is so good, she is the majority of the reason I will continue to tune in. While McDermot is one or two note in his performance, Britton is excellent. Britton tries her darndest to find some heart and some torture beneath the surface of her character. It seems unrealistic from the outset that the Ben and Vivion would stay together after the cheating incident, but Britton is able to get us to believe that this character is such that she could actually convince herself that she needs to stay with this man who betrayed her trust.
This show will most certainly build upon what it has shown us so far and will most likely be over the top before season 1 is in the can. Yet, this show might actually be the best case scenario for over the top. We already have some good plot points that are intriguing such as what exactly is the story with the maid? What is her relationship with the neighbor and why did she say ‘don’t make me kill you again?’ Was that really Ben in the full body leather suit (sidenote: if it’s not and this was somehow some manifestation of the houses sentient self and if it was that encounter that led to Vivion’s pregnancy, it will be an interesting subplot to see how the life of that baby evolves)? Why was Ben trying to burn his hand? What’s the deal with the guy who killed his family and how does he fit in to the future of the show? And how will the psychotic kid with the apparent connection to the house fit in?
All of this along with greater exploration into the history of the house, with great writing, can be something that definitely makes for a very watchable show. What will determine the success of the show in the end will be how the story evolves with its over-the-top nature. If the characters are written well, the story is intriguing and we care about what happens to all these people, then most will look past all the schlock and care about the heart of the show (think the William Friedken masterpiece ‘Bug’).
Unfortunately, for this show it looks as though all of that will rely on Britton. We know enough to know that the storyline/writing from Murphy will most definitely have its truly high points, but it will be inconsistent and will be up to the actors to bring it back to reality, and Britton appears to be the only one that can handle that responsibility at this point. If the other actors prove me wrong and the writing remains within itself to find a good balance of the over-the-top and the character driven nature of the story, then I won’t be the only one DVR-ing this show.