You know the proverbial "bush" people refer to when they use the phrase "beat around the bush"? Yeah. American Horror Story lives in that bush! Never before have I seen a show so gleefully diving into ridiculous and often troubling content and come out so clearly on top. How can you fault Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk when they're benefiting from the most cavalier attitude in television? A centuries old woman who flayed the faces of her slaves resurrected to serve the whims of a black witch? Yeah why not. A seriously regressive and stigmatising look into mental institutions in the 60s? Yeah our audience is smart enough to get it! An entire series based on the archaic and dehumanising concept of the freak show? Well, we've come this far...
American Horror Story has always been best when crashing into ideas of the macabre and disturbing (no wonder this has the same co-creator as Glee), and the setting of each series reflects that. Murder House? A little cliche but spooky. Asylum? A little close to home, but still spooky. Coven? NICE! And spooky! Freakshow? A little steeped in centuries-old prejudices but still spooky. And what's been prepared for Season 5? American Horror Story: Hotel. Great rates and breakfast included! Also Spooky!
American Horror Story excels when it depicts an institution, as does all television in my opinion. A common setting, along with shared goals and functions of a place conflicting with those of individuals are the perfect boiling pot for good serialised drama. American Horror Story Season 5: Hotel is doing its predecessors justice by having one of most dynamic, yet familiar settings possible. We should appreciate just how perfect a setting hotels are for this kind of drama. Dozens of schemes and interests poorly hidden behind closed doors in a shared environment of decorum and business. Oooh I can't wait to see how much more catty this show gets!
One element of American Horror Story: Hotel that seems out of place is, however, it's very premise. A hotel just doesn't have that morbid, scary weight to it. Most people don't live in murder houses or asylums (I myself am part of a coven, but I accept I'm not the norm), but hotels are such a standard image. I'm wondering how much spooky can be squeezed out of it. This isn't a problem; it's just interesting to see that American Horror Story has an outlier in it's themes. Not that it had all that much consistency with that anyway!
American Horror Story has been so lucky with carrying over the likes of Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters and even Kathy Bates between seasons. They are the constants in a show defined by reinvention. They are the perfect mix of sexy yet unsettling, talented yet campy, and only American Horror Story could look at this cast and say "yo let's add Lady Gaga!"
Putting Lady Gaga in your show is either the total admission of self-awareness, or a total succumbing to a lack of it. Her 30 seconds of flirting with Joseph Gordon Levitt was the best thing about Sin City 2, though that's hardly difficult. I'm not even sure who Gaga will be playing, though what's the point in putting Lady Gaga in your thing if she'll be playing anything other than Lady Gaga? Her casting is the perfect way for American Horror Story to say to it's fans "yeah. We know what we want. We know what you want, now let's get on with it!"
Side note: Wes Bentley is returning! That's great news, cos that guy just looking at you is it's own American Horror Story am I right? Love you, Wes!
The Modern Setting
This is the one element I'm a little unsure on. American Horror Story: Hotel being set in the modern day just seems contrary to it's cool premise. Coven made sense to be in the present, as it wielded an extremely old concept that got more interesting when defined by a modern aesthetic, but hotels? Hotels just aren't what they used to be, what with keycards and morning buffets (I say this with utmost conviction, being 90 years old). The idea of the old bustling hotel just has this strange respectable chaos to it. Just check out this scene from 1932's Grand Hotel, and tell me it wouldn't be better with more death.
Hey, American Horror Story! You're the campiest thing on television, and you're forgoing the chance to remake a Greta Garbo movie? You crazy? If only there was some product that adopted the old-timey bustling hotel premise that modern audiences could show enthusiasm for...
Despite displaying a lack of faith in the "Hotel" part of American Horror Story: Hotel, I just can't be sure the show won't throw me a curve ball. American Horror Story Season 6 could be set in a post-office, and could still indulge in all that horrific garishness that makes me bounce around with glee. Bring on Hotel!