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Posted at 04:56 PM ET, 10/17/2012

‘American Horror Story: Asylum’: A short primer

I will admit that I was a little skeptical about this whole “American Horror Story” reboot thing. No more Harmons, and Jessica Lange is a nun, and they’ve given the show an even longer title that requires me to type a colon?


Jessica Lange, doing her sister act. (Frank Ockenfels/FX)

Those factors, coupled with the fact that preview screeners of the first two episodes of “American Horror Story: Asylum” were not made available until the 11th hour, convinced me that the combination of absurdity and genuine creepiness that characterized the first “AHS” would not be duplicated the second time around.

However, as I said in my review of those initial two installments, I needn’t have worried. Two hours into “American Horror Story: Asylum,” Ryan Murphy and co. have sucked me in. And if I’m heading back into this cuckoo vortex — especially, sadly, without the companionship of Paul Williams — then you all are coming with me.

With that said, here’s a brief primer on “American Horror Story: Asylum,” which airs Wednesday night on FX at 10 p.m., and will be followed Thursday morning by one of Celebritology’s signature Q&A-formatted recaps of all the depraved lunacy.

But first, a few pre-questions.

So wait: no more Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott?

That is correct. All members of the Harmon family, including Taissa Farmiga and Hallie the dog, have retired along with Murder House. Now that the action has moved, largely, to a Massachusetts mental hospital run by religious types circa 1964, our Harmons can officially rest in peace. Well, one of them is on “Nashville,” which is on at the same time, so rest might not be the right word. Update: Actually, co-creator Ryan Murphy announced late Wednesday afternoon that Dylan McDermott will return to the series in an unspecified capacity. So Ben, at least, will re-emerge, presumably as someone other than Ben.

Jessica Lange is back, though, right?

She is, and she’s once again a psychologically screwed-up, micromanaging nasty but also vaguely empowered she-hellion. Except this time she’s a nun with a sometimes-Massachusetts-y accent.

Tate? What about Tate? Oh please, say there will be a lot of Tate.

Evan Peters is indeed back onboard and still being charged with killing people, albeit in a completely different context. Also returning: Lily Rabe (formerly Nora Montgomery, now a skittish nun), Sarah Paulson (psychic medium now-turned newspaper reporter), Zachary Quinto, who shows up in episode two, and Frances Conroy, due to appear later this season.

This may be the result of a fever dream I had while watching DVR’d episodes of “The Voice” on a sick day. But didn’t I hear that Adam Levine is in this new “AHS” iteration?

You did, and he is! So is Channing Tatum’s wife (Jenna Dewan), Kelly Ripa’s husband (Mark Consuelos), Babe’s dad (James Cromwell) and Nicolette from “Big Love” (Chloe Sevigny).


(Michael Yarish - FX)

What about the opening titles? Are they the same?

The images, obviously, are different and more “Asylum”-related. But the font is the same, and that mental music hasn’t changed either. Honestly, if the first 15 minutes of each episode consisted solely of the opening titles on repeat, this would still be a pretty decent series.

American Horror Story - Opening Credits from darko on Vimeo.

The first season was pretty ghost-heavy. Are there any ghosts in the Asylum?

I don’t want to say too much since the episode is just hours away from airing. But I will say the terror, so far, is less about specters. Unless of course half the characters turn out to be ghosts, which, let’s face it, is entirely possible given what happened last year.

How scary is the premiere?

There are some jumpy moments. But “AHS: Asylum,” in my view, has always been about more skin-crawling, flesh-chilling, atmospheric scares. Wednesday night’s episode definitely delivers some of those.

Look, I never watched “American Horror Story” but I’m watching this since it’s a total reboot. So just tell me this: Is “American Horror Story: Asylum” awful but watchable TV, really good TV or so-awful-it’s-irresistible TV?

Yes.

We’ll reconvene here in Celebritology to discuss further after Wednesday nights episode, “Welcome to Briarcliff,” has aired.

By  |  04:56 PM ET, 10/17/2012

Tags:  American Horror Story

 
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