Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story on FX helped launch the recent trend of anthology series that tell a distinct story in a new setting each season, with largely the same cast portraying different characters. The cable network is hoping to find similar success with the producer’s upcoming series American Crime Story (not to be confused with ABC's similarly titled anthology American Crime), which tackles the infamous O.J. Simpson trial in its inaugural season starting in February.
In its first five seasons, the Emmy-winning American Horror Story -- which was renewed for season 6 in November -- has been set in a Los Angeles haunted house, a 1960s mental institution in Massachusetts, a New Orleans-based witch coven, a waning freak show in the 1950s and, most recently, a supernatural hotel in present-day LA. While we don't yet know where the next season will take place, a few details have been released on the upcoming sixth season’s time period.
TVLine reports that FX president John Landgraf told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour that season 6 would be “set in the present” with “echoes of the past” mixed in:
“It’s set in two time periods, but principally in the present. Ryan [Murphy] will kill me if I tease anything [else].”
American Horror Story: Murder House, Coven, and Hotel were all set in the present, but featured various nods to the past, as did the other seasons to reveal important details on each character’s often horrific backstory in flashbacks. Other details on AHS’s latest season have been scarce thus far.
Murphy previously told EW that the latest edition will be very different and less opulent than Hotel, and later revealed that he had already asked Lady Gaga to join season 6. The singer -- who recently earned a Golden Globe award for her portrayal of The Countess -- took the reins of the series following the departure of Jessica Lange after Freak Show, but it has yet to be confirmed that she'll return for another round.
A darker and more grounded season could be a welcome change for the franchise. Since its genuinely scary and disturbing first two seasons, American Horror Story has often preferred style over substance, resorting to stunt casting and shock value to enthrall viewers rather than exploring classic horror tropes. There's also been a lack of consistency, with each season starting off with a strong premise and cast of characters, before eventually going off the rails somewhere down the road.
Murphy and co-creator Brad Falchuk have a talent for attracting gifted actors and directors, but could do a better job of sticking to what draws fans to the genre in the first place. Hopefully, the confirmation that the new season will take place primarily in the present with only a few sequences in the past means that they show will rely less on detailing extensive and sometimes unnecessary backstories, and instead focus on creating and maintaining coherent plotlines for the main story.
American Horror Story season 6 is scheduled to premiere in fall 2016.