and I talked about the baggage that critics take into the screening room. Was it fair that we knew Murphy’s projects tend to go off the rails in season three? Perhaps, but only if we also acknowledged that few names in the TV business would generate as much interest in a new series project like Ryan Murphy’s does.
So let’s acknowledge this: In an industry that has lately become risk-averse, where cable channels that a decade ago lived on a diet of reality and reruns are now burdened by the need to find scripted hits that remind viewers of their earlier scripted hits, “American Horror Story” is by far the most thought-provoking and arresting TV pilot of the fall season.
That’s not to say it’s going to be any good, and indeed as the screening went on in the Little Theatre on the Fox lot, I could hear titters and laughs tinged with derision, as though my peers had a sense that the wheels were already coming off. Again, past is prologue, and this is a Murphy production, just like“Nip/Tuck,”
which started out so high concept and wound up a weird mutilation-titillation soap.
Perhaps some of the laughter I heard came from scenes that showed it to be so earnestly an homage to auteur-driven horror films like “The Shining” and “Rosemary’s Baby” (Falchuk even told us it was an homage in his pre-screening comments). Or maybe it was just a nervous reaction to all the quick cuts and bizarre twists of fate, presented in a nonstop assault that went on for most of an hour.
The story, without spoilers:Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton
play a couple with a troubled teen who move 3,000 miles to get away from something that almost wrecked their marriage. Upon arriving in L.A., they buy the one house they absolutely, positively should not buy. And next thing you know they’re all having visions: murdered twins, blood pouring down the stairs, a little girl’s taunts, a young temptress who turns out to be an old whore, Danny riding around the halls on a Big Wheel ha! I made that one up. There is no Big Wheel. The rest is in there, though, and a whole lot more, and it zips by in a blur of edits, accompanied by a crazy, angry, guttural soundtrack.
“Is it a psychosexual thriller? It is,” said Murphy before the screening. “But it’s also a scary piece in many ways. Yet there are no vampires or monsters. The monster in the closet is infidelity.”
That’s all I care to write about this pilot until I see it, and the second episode, in final form, which FX is promising shortly after Labor Day. But even if it turns out “American Horror Story” is a stinker, no one can accuse FX of pulling punches or Ryan Murphy of not trying something out of his comfort zone, or ours.
Speaking of “Glee,” Oxygen’s“The Glee Project” visited the TV critics tour earlier on Wednesday to confirm that the show is likely going to get renewed for another season. Producer Michael Davies is “incredibly confident” about there being a season two
. But what does he know about competition TV shows, having produced “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “Two Minute Drill”?
Also on Wednesday, the Cuban talk show hostCristina
appeared for a press conference to promote her new two-hour program on Telemundo, where she jumped after 21 years on Univision. If you don’t speak Spanish, don’t worry, Telemundo is providing English translation of “Cristina” on the CC3 channel.
AndMSNBC chief Phil Griffin confirmed he has not signed Al Sharpton to a contract. He’s just giving the reverend the 6 o’clock time slot for the month until he can figure out what to do with it next. Sitting next to him were three of the four prime-time hosts (Ed Schultz was attending a family reunion). Asked what they thought about President Obama’s reelection chances, Lawrence O’Donnell rated them as strong, Rachel Maddow was optimistic and Chris Matthews,
after a three-minute answer, declared himself not so sure.
Griffin also said that MSNBC has already beatenFox News Channel
13 times in head-to-head competition in the “news demo,” viewers ages 25 to 54 that premium advertisers want to reach (as opposed to the viewers who respond to “We Buy Gold!” commercials). Last year, MSNBC only topped Fox once in the demo.
On Wednesday, CBS will present its fall lineup, introduceTed Danson as the newest addition to “CSI,” and put on a party with its stars. TCA parties are working events, and though I won’t tweet from this one, I will write about it afterwards in my morning intel report, so check in at TV Barn and be sure to follow me on Twitter or Facebook.