American Horror Story- “My Roanoke Nightmare” (Fox 2016)- A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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Series 6 of another show I have watched every episode of.  I’m drawn to this because, apart from the chills (variable) I very much like the repertory approach of the company of actors who take part in the different set-ups each season.  The show takes a “horror anthology” format which I approve of and throughout the series we have had some fascinating casting (Lady GaGa, Patti Labelle and Adam Levine have all temporarily moved away from the day job).  Some have been there right from the start (including Evan Peters, Lily Rabe and Sarah Paulson) and have enjoyed a wealth of different acting experiences through this one show, whilst some, including Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jnr and Andre Holland are making their debut in “My Roanoke Nightmare” which has premiered this week both in the US and UK.  The production team of this show must also be the biggest US television employer of out gay actors, producing great roles for Sarah Paulson, Denis O’Hare, Cheyenne Jackson, Matt Bomer and Zachary Quinto.

 

Paulson, O Hare, Jackson, Bomer and Quinto

This season has been effectively cloaked in mystery with no plot reveals.  I didn’t even know what a Roanoke is to have a nightmare about.  (I’ve since found out it is an island in North Carolina where there was a real-life disappearance of a group of colonists in the sixteenth century.)  Here we have a modern-day haunted house set-up presented in the form of a drama-documentary.

 

This format allows doubling up of the actors with some playing “talking heads” the “real” protagonists and some portraying them in the television dramatisation.  Thus Lily Rabe (superb in Series 2 “Asylum” when she played a nun) and Sarah Paulson (superb in Series 4 “Freak Show” when she played conjoined twins) both play Shelby, with Rabe being the talking head (the “real” Shelby).  Newcomers Gooding Jnr and Holland play Shelby’s husband Matt and the wonderful Adina Porter (Tara’s mum from “True Blood) and the even more wonderful Angela Bassett (at her most outstanding as the Voodoo Witch Marie Laveau in Series 3 “Coven” where she joined the show) as Matt’s sister, ex-cop Lee.

Paulson and Gooding Jnr, Angela Bassett and Lily Rabe

The thing about “American Horror” is that it is impossible to predict where it is going to go, so this format may very well be abandoned in future episodes.  What we do know is that Lady GaGa is rejoining the cast and now series regulars Kathy Bates, Denis O’Hare, Evan Peters, Cheyenne Jackson, Matt Bomer and Finn Wittrock will be around (they may have already appeared- sometimes it is hard to see through the disguises) and Jacob Artist who lit up the latter episodes of writer Ryan Murphy’s other mega-hit “Glee” is also making his “American Horror” debut.  I cannot wait to see what Evan Peters is playing as he has been excellent in each of the stories.

 

A montage of Evan Peters’ roles

There were a few jumpy moments in the first episode and a hailstorm of human teeth but I don’t feel it has yet managed to establish an original identity (probably because the premise of a couple moving into a new house was reminiscent of Series 1 “Murder House” and the ghostly corridor wandering of Series 5 “Hotel”).  I do have confidence in writers Murphy and Brian Falchuk in coming up with the goods in this series which has scooped many US TV awards (and has given the now-departed Jessica Lange some of her best roles in her career) yet is a little tucked away on the Fox Channel here in the UK.  It will have to go some to eclipse my favourite of the anthologies (Series 4- Freakshow) and will have to ramp up the horror to be more disturbing than Series 2 (Asylum) but confident writing and an exciting, dynamic and good-looking cast there’s heaps of potential.

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American Horror Story “My Roanoke Nightmare” is broadcast in the UK on Fox at Friday nights at 10.00 pm.  Episode 1 was shown on 16/09/16 and is available on Sky catch-up channels.

 

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