Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie
Who: “American Horror Story” airs on cable TV, specifically on FX, most recently on Fall Tuesdays at 10:00 PM, though it is currently on hiatus.
What: “American Horror Story,” a horror drama created by Ryan Murphy (Glee, Nip/Tuck) that tells a new horror story each season while featuring recurring actors and ensemble players. This season is subtitled “Cult;” is set in fictional Brookfield Heights, Michigan, during the year 2017; and centers around a cult terrorizing a suburb in the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Set in the year 2017, the fictitious town of Brookfield Heights, Michigan, is left divided upon the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential election. Local restaurant owner Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson) and her wife Ivy (Alison Pill) are left utterly distraught. Despite the help of her psychiatrist, Dr. Rudy Vincent Anderson (Cheyenne Jackson), Ally becomes increasingly unstable in the following weeks; her long repressed phobias begin to re-emerge, and they begin to affect her relationships with her wife as well as with their son Oz (Cooper Dodson). Across town, misogynistic alt-righter Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) rejoices at the election results, enticing him to pursue political power by running for city council while led by Bebe Babbitt (Frances Conroy), an old-school feminist, and with the help of his reluctant, liberal sister Winter (Billie Lourd), who was also hired by the Mayfair-Richards household as their nanny. As Ally attempts to adjust to regular life despite her growing anxiety and paranoia, she becomes terrorized by a group of masked assailants in clown attire who are only present when she is alone, leaving those around her to wonder if she was truly attacked or if they were merely hallucinations.
Kai’s faithful followers include Ally’s eccentric neighbors Harrison (Billy Eichner) and Meadow Wilton (Leslie Grossman), newscast reporter Beverly Hope (Adina Porter), rogue detective Jack Samuels (Colton Haynes), and local grocery cashier Gary K. Longstreet (Chaz Bono). With Kai’s rise to power revealing sinister motives, Ally starts to draw connections between her alleged clown attackers and the many strange incidents occurring in Brookfield Heights. She begins to fear that everyone in town is out to get her, amplifying her growing distrust of those around her, especially her neighbors.
When: Season Seven aired from September 5, 2017, to November 14, 2017, on FX.
Where: Each season focuses on a different locale. This season, the action is set largely in fictional Brookfield Heights, Michigan.
Why: Nick and Sarah, two CPU! regulars, proposed that CPU! publish an American Horror Story podcast series, being big fans of the show, and your Chief CP, who has previously covered this program on the CPU! blog and enjoys the show quite a bit, agreed wholeheartedly to the idea. Thus, welcome to our new CPU! series revolving around AHS, with each episode in the series focusing on one season of the show. The series started at the beginning and will be ongoing as long as AHS stays on the air!
How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS
American Horror Story is a groundbreaking horror anthology series that airs on FX. Not only did this program render the horror genre mainstream television fare, it also propelled anthology formats to popularity. The show is widely watched and a tent pole for FX, becoming a Halloween/fall-time cable staple of disturbing imagery and grotesque scares.
Two of CPU!’s frequent panelists, and one of our resident married couples, Nick and Sarah, are big fans of the show and, as noted above, proposed that CPU! start a series discussing AHS throughout its seasons. We have already published our first episode in this series, chatting the first season of AHS, widely known as “Murder House;” the second episode discussing the second season, “Asylum;” the third episode discussing the third season, “Coven;” the fourth episode discussing the fourth season, “Freak Show;” the fifth episode discussing the fifth season, “Hotel;” and the sixth episode discussing the sixth season, “Roanoke.” Listen here:
American Horror Story Series, Episode 1, Season 1, “Murder House”
American Horror Story Series, Episode 2, Season 2, “Asylum”
American Horror Story Series, Episode 3, Season 3, “Coven”
American Horror Story Series, Episode 4, Season 4, “Freak Show”
American Horror Story Series, Episode 5, Season 5, “Hotel”
In today’s episode, the seventh episode of this series, we cover Season Seven, “Cult.” As the seasons are discussed and published, moderation duties rotate among the members of our robust AHS panel. To wit, yours truly is back at the moderating mic to talk this seventh season, along with returning panelists Nick, Sarah, Emily, and Kallie. In this episode, then, we discuss our favorite and least favorite moments within the “Cult” season and our general impressions of the season’s success. I should warn you, gentle listener, “success” is typically relative, and the panel does not ascribe that “successful” quality to this season as a general rule. In fact, the panel’s reactions to Season 7 can best be summed up this way: it offers a risky, potentially intriguing concept that fell spectacularly flat, owing to disjointed writing and an uneven presentation of forced concepts that viewers were expected to buy with complete but unearned suspension of disbelief. I guess this means, my friends, that you have been forewarned. We have some strong opinions about the season subtitled “Cult.”
This podcast was recorded in June 2018, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as we cover major plot points throughout the “Cult” season. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!
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Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly! Next Thursday (as next Wednesday is the 4th of July), our Marvel’s Defenders Panel returns to the Water Cooler to react, for better and, unfortunately, for worse, to the second season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones, released in March of this year. Stay tuned!
The panel generally agrees, with the exception of panelist Sarah who struggled most with the “Roanoke” season, that “Cult” represents the worst of all seven seasons of American Horror Story. Though the panel was universally excited by the gutsy backdrop potentially informing this seventh season, every panelist reacted in a somewhat volatile if not utterly confused manner to the execution of the gutsy backdrop, as all panelists regarded the season’s story to be largely disjointed, as if the writers were more impressed with it than they should be. While the scares of the season proved to be some of the scariest, given the realities Americans now face every day no matter where one falls on the political spectrum, the payoff of some of the ambitious setups ultimately left resounding feelings of let-down in the season’s wake. Ultimately, our AHS panel generally believed that the AHS writers and creator Ryan Murphy (the public face of the creative team) tried to do too much too quickly and almost in an aggrandizing way, which did little to endear our resident viewers to the cast of unsympathetic characters and archetypes populating this season. Plus, our podcast is based in Michigan, and while there is a kernel of truth to the slice of Michigan life portrayed by the show, the setting, the characters, and the situations felt too much like caricature to help any of our panelists suspend disbelief in meaningful ways, as we have been able to do at least to some degree during all of the show’s prior six seasons. In short, “Cult” was a mess – and maybe deliberately so, if the writers were trying to be clever – but the seventh season also lacked entertainment value in the process, even as it tried too hard to be art in the end.
Our next episode in this series will cover Season Eight, though the release date and “subtitle” have not been released as of the time of the publication of this post. What we do know about the eighth season is that it will feature the long-rumored, long-awaited crossover of what are arguably AHS’ most popular seasons, “Murder House” and “Coven.” Thus, our AHS panel will return sometime after the Season 8 finale and then, again, after Season 9, since the horror anthology season has guaranteed longevity for two more seasons. Stay tuned!