American Horror Story is an American horror television series created and produced by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. Described as an anthology series, each season is conceived as a self-contained miniseries, following a disparate set of characters and settings, and a storyline with its own "beginning, middle, and end.
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The first season, retroactively titled American Horror Story: Murder House is about infidelity. The story takes place in 2011 and follows the Harmon family: psychiatrist Ben (Dylan McDermott), his wife Vivien (Connie Britton), and their teenage daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), who move from Boston to Los Angeles after Vivien has a miscarriage and Ben has an affair. The Harmons move into a restored mansion and soon encounter the home's former residents, the Langdons – Constance (Jessica Lange) and her two children, Tate (Evan Peters) and Addie (Jamie Brewer) – and the disfigured Larry Harvey (Denis O'Hare). Ben and Vivien try to rekindle their relationship, as Violet, suffering from depression, finds comfort with Tate. The Langdons and Larry frequently influence the Harmons' lives, as the family discovers that the home is haunted by the ghosts of anyone who has ever died on the property.
The second season, titled American Horror Story: Asylum, is about sanity and control. The story takes place in 1964 and follows the patients, doctors and nuns who occupy the Briarcliff Mental Institution, founded to treat and house the criminally insane. The wardens who run the institution include the stern Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), her protégé Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) and the founder of the institution, Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes). The doctors charged with treating the patients at the asylum include psychiatrist Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) and the sadistic scientist Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell). The patients, many of whom claim to be unjustly institutionalized, include lesbian journalist Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), accused serial killer Kit Walker (Evan Peters), nymphomaniac Shelley (Chloe Sevigny) and alleged murderer Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré). Briarcliff's inhabitants are routinely subject to supernatural and scientific influences, including demonic possession and extraterrestrial abduction.
The third season, titled American Horror Story: Coven, is about oppression; specifically, the oppression of marginalized groups and female empowerment. After the Salem witch trials, descendants of the witches who survived are nearly extinct and are in danger once again. Those who share this genetic affliction are being subjected to strange and violent attacks. A mysterious all-girls boarding school has opened in New Orleans to protect and house young women who carry this unique bloodline, and keep them from the dangers of the outside world. The long-absent Supreme, and most powerful witch of her generation, Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), arrives to ensure the safety of the Coven, but also to fulfill her own hidden agenda. Fiona's daughter, Cordelia (Sarah Paulson), teaches at the school and welcomes its newest student, Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga), who harbors her own harrowing secret. Events reveal a long-held rivalry between the witches of Salem and the voodoo practitioners of New Orleans, as well as a historic grudge between Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) and socialite serial killer Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates). Other themes include witchcraft, voodoo, racism, and family, such as the relationships between mothers and daughters. The season is set primarily in the modern day and includes flashbacks to the early 1970s and the 1830s
The fourth season, titled American Horror Story: Freak Show, is about discrimination, particularly people who are classified as "freaks" by the public. The story takes place in 1952 in the quiet town of Jupiter, Florida and follows a struggling freak show led by Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange). Decades have passed since the public has looked upon freak shows as a form of entertainment, but Elsa dreams of finding a home for her "monsters", as well as her own fame. When conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson) are taken to the hospital, Elsa sees her chance to finally drum up some business for her sideshow, hoping the two sisters will save her troupe once and for all. Other members include Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters), a boy born with syndactyly who dreams of leaving the carny life behind and living a normal life. Jimmy's mother, the bearded lady Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates), is Elsa's second in command and maintains law and order under the tent. A Strongman from Ethel's troubled past named Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis), and his three-breasted wife, Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett), make waves when they arrive at the sideshow. In a time when the era of television is beginning to reign high above sideshow acts, these individuals must overcome those who persecute them based on their looks. However, as events unfold, it is revealed that multiple dark entities have taken up residence in Jupiter, with all of their eyes being set on the freaks.
On October 13, 2014, FX announced that the series would return in October 2015, with a fifth season. Network president John Landgraf has stated that the season will necessitate a "huge reinvention" for the series. The season's subtitle was confirmed as Hotel with the announcement that Lady Gaga would be co-starring. It was announced at the 2015 Paleyfest that Matt Bomer and Cheyenne Jackson will co-star, and that Lange would not be returning. Since Paleyfest, Murphy has announced the series returns of Wes Bentley, Chloë Sevigny, Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Angela Bassett, and Finn Wittrock. On June 18, 2015 Murphy revealed toDeadline.com that Denis O'Hare would also return. On June 25, 2015 Murphy confirmed the return of Emma Roberts towards the end of the season. On July 15, 2015, it was announced that Richard T. Jones had joined the cast portraying the role of Detective Hahn, a homicide detective. The same day, it was announced Helena Mattsson had joined the cast. On July 22, 2015, it was announced Lily Rabe would be appearing as a serial killer. on July 23, 2015, Naomi Campbell joined the cast as a fashion editor.