Sunday, December 16, 2012

Is American Horror Story the new Heroes?

I love high-concept shows.

Like most television lovers, I get sick of the constant stream of procedurals that never break from their controlled little boxes.

I think that’s why I continue to have high hopes for ‘American Horror Story.’

This week, though, something hit me: ‘American Horror Story’ is going down the same road ‘Heroes’ did years ago.

And that’s not a good thing.

When ‘Heroes’ first hit the air, people tuned in because they wanted something different. This was after ‘Lost’ hit it big but long before cable started being the standard bearer of all things quality.

The first season of ‘Heroes’ was pretty much perfect.

Sure, a lot of people were unhappy with that first season finale – but the build-up to it was pretty phenomenal.

The story arc for the first season was strong – and all the characters were woven into it with deliberate strokes and solid follow-through.

As soon as the second season hit, though, fans started to worry that something wasn’t quite right.

I think the problem with ‘Heroes’ was two-fold.

First, the writers started to get too broad with their focus. Things were better when there was one solid story theme that everyone touched on.

Second, the focus on Peter and Sylar became so finite that the other characters started to falter.

What ‘Heroes’ should have done was woven characters in and out of their narrative – instead of fixating on keeping everyone involved.

For example, Niki, D.L. and Micah should have been written out after the first season. In a vain attempt to keep Ali Larter relevant on the canvas, the writers kept creating “new” characters for her to portray (and killing off the people that originally anchored her). The result was a character that no one cared about, who was anchored to no one of importance, and who did absolutely nothing of interest.

The writers realized pretty early on that they had made a mistake with Peter. He was too powerful. There was almost no way to take him down.

As a way to combat that, they changed his “ability” – and only let him absorb one power at a time. It was a fix, but it hampered Peter even more than his troublesome haircut did.

So, why do I think ‘American Horror Story’ is like ‘Heroes’?

It’s more than just the presence of Zachary Quinto, that’s for sure.

‘Heroes’ biggest fault was that it couldn’t follow a clear story path. That’s why it lasted four seasons, instead of the seven it possibly should have.

I think the fix for ‘Heroes’ would have been making their first season arc the arc of the entire show. Others may disagree with that – but that’s how I see it.

‘American Horror Story’ tried to head off the ‘Heroes’ disease by making each season a different arc, with different characters, and different stories.

It’s still a muddled hodge-podge, though.

‘American Horror Story’ does certain things really well. The show is definitely disturbing. It’s not scary, though.

I think most fans agree that, as season one progressed, it got weaker and weaker.

The same problem is starting to affect season two.

What ‘American Horror Story’ needs to do is shrink its universe, not expand it.

‘American Horror Story’ had a solid basis for a strong arc with the asylum itself – and the peculiar people that inhabited it -- this season.

They didn’t need to add aliens and a ridiculous angel of death.

I think, ‘American Horror Story’ should learn from ‘Heroes’ mistakes. Make things simpler – instead of more complicated. Streamline the story arc instead of branching it off into a million ridiculous directions.

I want ‘American Horror Story’ to succeed – I think that’s why I’m so fixated on it.

There is very little good horror on television right now. I don’t want to see ‘American Horror Story’ fail before it really has a chance to shine.

What do you think? Is ‘American Horror Story’ too much like ‘Heroes’?


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