The New Anthology Format

I was going to write about the announcement that American Horror Story will be a sort of serialized anthology series, with season 2 following a new horror story with a new set of characters (with some of the original cast members returning in different parts) but Todd was there when the network made the announcement, so go read his report. Spoilers for the first season of American Horror Story are there, be warned.

American Horror Story wasn’t much of a show, really, but this is a good idea. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the anthology series is something networks want to bring back but can’t, and apart from the fact that anthology shows usually bomb, John Landgraf mentioned another reason in the announcement session: anthology shows require a big promotional budget which most networks can’t afford. (You can’t just promote the premise, and you can’t promote continuing characters; you have to promote each episode separately and almost equally until you’re sure that viewers are willing to return on a regular basis.) Bringing that format to season-long storytelling, the most common type of storytelling in 13-episode cable drama, seems like a good way around that.

Other shows have discussed the possibility of doing this; the producers of Heroes discussed it, and even the American Horror Story producers discussed it before the show started, only nobody believed them. If AHS does go through with this – and of course, given the kind of show this is, they will likely have the option of retooling the whole thing back into a continuing character show if they need to – it will be an experiment that a lot of shows have talked about, some shows have at least flirted with, but nobody has really pulled off yet. So here’s hoping that they do pull it off; there’s a lot to be said for it, including, as Ryan Murphy has pointed out, that it would allow A-list actors to star in a TV series for one season only. Sort of the TV equivalent of big stage stars who commit to a limited run.

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