American Horror Story: Season 1 (2011)

American Horror Story: Season 1 (2011)

American Horror Story is in an anthology format, with the first season focusing on a haunted house while later seasons are focused on an asylum and then a witch coven.

The Harmon family, a father-mother-daughter combo, moves from Boston to Los Angeles on the heels of a family scandal. Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) has cheated on his wife, Vivien (Connie Britton) and they hope to reconcile things by moving to a new house in a new part of the country. However, things are not what they seem at their new home – it is a dark place full of tragedies and past murders and lurid secrets, and the Harmons soon discover that they may not have the house all to themselves.

The show has an interesting format. I didn’t expect there to be a different focus for each season, which is a nice touch. I thought for sure that they couldn’t go on with the same premise for more than one season so I’m glad of the focus switch. It really allows for some flexibility with later seasons.

The show is sexy, violent and pretty terrifying at times and seems to blend all of the urban legends and horror stories we’ve all heard over the years into a compelling drama.

Sometimes, it can be a bit over-dramatic and somewhat like a soap opera, so I had to look past that at times but overall it was really enjoyable. The acting was solid, especially from veterans like Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy. Some of the characters are likable but most are pretty damaged and only likable because of their quirks as opposed to any humanity they might have.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

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Hell On Wheels: Season 1 (2011)

Hell On Wheels: Season 1 (2011)

Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) is a former Confederate soldier in a country that’s healing after the American Civil War and the assassination of president Abraham Lincoln – and he’s searching for his wife’s killers, most of whom were Union soldiers during the war. Leaving a bunch of corpses in his wake, Cullen finds himself one of the individuals living in Hell On Wheels – the temporary, mobile town following the progress of the Transcontinental Railroad as it spreads west.

When I first saw the description of this show on Netflix, I thought it might be some sort of cheesy programming reserved for late nights at home. I was wrong on that count.

Hell On Wheels, at least the first season, was pretty enjoyable overall. The main character, Cullen, shrugs off traditional southern “Rebel” stereotypes and in a way flips it so that the Union has a few bad eggs in it, too. Cullen has his low points but overall seems to use his own code of honor.

One thing I have to say is that for a man searching for his wife’s killers, he seems to take a while to really get into the hunt. We have a few instances early on in the season where he really digs in but then it almost seems as if he forgets his mission while he’s moving on down the rails.

Since Deadwood hasn’t been on the air, I’ve been looking for similar programming and while this show isn’t as great as Deadwood, it has some of the same, dusty, late 1800’s flavoring that made Deadwood so cool. I’ll definitely be checking out the second season. Hell On Wheels, like many of its characters, is likable even if it has some flaws.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Breaking Bad: Season 1 (2008)

Breaking Bad: Season 1 (2008)

Original Air Date: January 20, 2008
Stations Airing: AMC
Number Of Episodes In Season: 7

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a high school chemistry teacher who discovers that he only has two more years left to live because of his unexpected stage III cancer. With nothing left to lose, and no other means to provide for his family, he enlists the aid of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), a bright but broken junkie and former student to help him distribute some crystal meth, which “Walt” is very proficient at creating. Soon, the duo find themselves not only at odds with each other but also crossing paths with heavy-duty drug dealers like the insane and violent Tuco (Raymond Cruz) as Walt and Jesse shoulder in on the meth-dealing business.

I had been extremely excited for this show upon seeing the original trailers on AMC back when I had cable. When it finally came on, I was not disappointed. I missed most of the original airing, but recently caught up on all the episodes using Netflix.

Right off the bat, the series and season one starts off at a decent pace, and you really get to both fear and love Walt by the end. I would say that the beginning half of the season is a nice segway into the dark, frenetic and chaotic second half with episodes like Crazy Handful of Nothin’ where Walt shaves his head and begins to really embrace his inner gangster. The dichotomy of Walter White, chemistry teacher with an extreme illness and Heisenberg, the meth-producing hard-ass is amazing and I can think of no better-written show in memory that could stand up to this series.

The relationship between Walt and Jesse is really, extremely well-done and is the subject of discussion even now among some of my friends. One of my friends, actually, (if you’re interested at all) has many theories about the show, especially when it comes to color symbolism. Check her out, but be careful because there might be spoilers if you haven’t seen the entire series yet. She makes some good points and observations, for sure, though. Her name is Erin Enberg and her website is HERE.

Breaking Bad has inspired so much conversation, between things like plot and characters, to other things like color symbolism. It’s that good. Do yourself a favor and check it out if you haven’t already. Just be prepared to become addicted to the show and not see the light of day until the series is over.

And even if you’ve already followed the show through to its satisfying conclusion, I found that it’s best to re-watch the series again right away from the beginning. You’ll really see how the characters have changed, mostly for the worse. Now get out of here and go watch it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Trailer For Season One Of Breaking Bad