TV on Disc: A Real ‘American Horror Story’

American Horror Story (Fox) is a TV rarity: an interesting, creepy, at times gruesome, and increasingly compelling horror story told over the course of a cable TV season.

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, this FX original series (the same network where they unleashed “Nip/Tuck”) isn’t the bright musical world of “Glee.” Though set in Los Angeles, where Boston family has moved to start over again after a marital affair has almost  torn them apart, this is a gloomy world, mostly set in a grand yet oppressive old home in a tree-lined neighborhood. And oh yeah, there was a murder committed here. Actually a bunch of murders. In fact, the home is a star attraction on the L.A. Murder Bus Tour route.

This isn’t, however, simply an innocent family beset by the trapped spirits of murders past. They dead just bring out the worst in the living, and there’s plenty to draw out of the bitter father Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott), a psychiatrist who needs to heal himself, resentful mother Vivien (Connie Britton), who still hasn’t forgiven him for his affair, and angry teenage daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), who has plenty to rebel against.

Jessica Lange, who just won an Emmy for her performance, is the displaced southern belle next door, a cross between Blanche DuBois and J.R. Ewing and played with a relish for theatrical flair. Her life is a performance, and she delivers the show’s best line with a mix of threat and delight: “Don’t make me kill you again.” The rest of the neighborhood slowly introduces itself, and as we discover, most of them actually reside in the Harmon home, trapped by death to replay their terrible stories with every new living resident.

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TV on DVD 07/13/10 – Dark Blue, White Collar and Sesame Street Hawk

As the title suggests, Dark Blue: The Complete First Season (Warner Archive) is a cop drama set in the shadows of law enforcement. Dylan McDermott (of The Practice) plays the leader of a deep cover unit of the police that “doesn’t even officially exist,” with a team that is expected to pose and pass as criminals, thinking on their feet to stay alive while infiltrating criminal organizations. There’s the married man (Omari Hardwick) who finds the stress of the job putting strains on his marriage, the reckless maverick (Logan Marshall-Green) who makes up his own rules and the rookie with a past (Nicki Aycox). All, of course, are young and sexy.

The sexiest deep cover cops in L.A.

It’s created by Danny Cannon and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and like their earlier show CSI, most of the shows play on nocturnal streets and murky sets; there’s nary a well-lit interior to be found, apart from the brief scenes back in the real world of police headquarters. While they nudge up against the borders of morality and veer over the lines of the law to do their jobs, it steers clear of The Shield territory (where the most effective cops had no trouble justifying their criminal activity on the side) to focus on the rush of the danger and the toll that the job takes when everything and everyone is simply a means to end: get the bad guy.

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