American Horror Story: 1984″ (Wednesdays, FX) is an unapologetic, unfettered case of giving people what they want: A straight-up slasher series in the mode of the “Friday the 13th” films, right down to the summer camp setting. The first of the 10 episodes, “Camp Redwood,” slathers on Eighties trappings like freeze-frames and grainy cinematography. We see the POV of a girl lifting her shirt over her head, and when her vision is cleared, her two kissing friends have been stabbed by a giant knife, their faces pinned together. It’s darkly funny — as is certainly intended by writers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, in their ninth season helming this repertory anthology series — but it’s also cleverly brutal enough that we know “1984” respects its genre.
Two years ago, I labeled Fall 2010 as the worst batch of new shows ever. The highlights were “Law & Order: Los Angeles,” which was hardly a new concept; “No Ordinary Family,” which was throwaway fun; and “The Walking Dead,” which wasn’t the show then that it is now.
“American Horror Story: Asylum” (9 p.m. Central Wednesdays on FX) departs from the first season’s present-day haunted house and visits an insane asylum in 1964. The setting is evocative and different enough that this is clearly a new world — there’s no need to think back on the pretty-good-then-pretty-bad first season (some actors are the same, but none of the characters are). But at the same time, “Asylum” is undeniably a Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk production, so we get more showy visuals and quick, arty cutaways than engaging characterizations or intriguing mysteries.
Ah, fall TV. And, in a nice old-school twist, the Entertainment Weekly Fall TV Preview issue highlighted a single show on its cover rather than using a collage (the featured show: “Homeland,” which seems worthy, although I’ve never seen it). The fall lineup isn’t particularly deep this year, but it’s pretty respectable at the top. I’ve picked out five new shows to watch and five returning shows I’m excited about (“Parenthood” returns tonight!). All times are Central.
I loved “American Horror Story” when it first started out, then kind of cooled on it toward the end of the season. It didn’t become flat-out bad, but it wasn’t as scary and surprising as when it first started. But the recent announcement that Season 2 will feature a new cast in a new setting has me excited about “AHS” again.
Part of why it’s been a great TV season is that there are so many compelling questions that keep us watching from week to week. And these aren’t just a matter of “Oh well, I’ve followed it this far so I might as well keep going” like I sometimes felt with “Lost.” A lot of shows this fall actually have mysteries where I want to know the answer. Here are seven of the most burning questions among currently airing shows (No, I haven’t forgotten about “Who killed Rosie Larsen?,” but I’ll save that for when “The Killing” returns). (All times Central.)
I’ve done “first episode impressions” of the noteworthy new shows this season, and many TV critics have done the same. We do this because it’s fun and quick-hitting more so than because it’s an accurate and fair way to judge a show. Indeed, my views of some shows have changed quite a bit in the month or so since the pilot episodes aired, so here’s a rundown on where I now stand with these series, ranked in order of quality. (All times are Central.)
In the premiere episode of “American Horror Story” (9 p.m. Central Wednesdays on FX), psychiatrist Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) tells his patient, Tate (Evan Peters from “Invasion”) that he’s not crazy, he’s creative.
Believe it or not, the fall TV season is less than a week away. Fittingly, one of the best-looking new shows and one of the best returning shows will throw out the first pitches of the season when they premiere on Tuesday. Here’s a closer look at those shows and more — my top six new shows and top six returning shows of Fall 2011. (Showing my non-coast bias, all times are Central.)