american-horror-storyAmerican Horror Story was created by Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy, who is known for his unique style of writing and characters. Even though many people only know Ryan Murphy from the Fox show Glee which he co-created he has a distinguished career. He has created many shows that are nothing like Glee and focus more on fantastical, absurd, and horror tinged themes. American Horror Story is a show that is more typical of Murphy’s work. The show has won high praise from critics. It’s been nominated for more than 15 Emmy awards and has attracted a strong following as a cult hit.

Each season of American Horror Story is a new story with a new setting and new characters. Many of the characters are played by the same actors that have appeared in other American Horror Story seasons so fans get to see the same actors playing very different roles each season. The third season of American Horror Story is titled Coven. American Horror Story: Coven tells a tale of witches trying to survive in the modern world while dealing with the intricacies of hundreds of years of relationships with other witches.

American Horror Story: Coven is set in New Orleans. The daughter of the Supreme witch, Cordelia Foxx,, has opened a witch academy to teach the younger generations of modern witches how to defend themselves against threats that witches face. One of the young witches who attends the school is burned at the stake, leading the Supreme with Fiona to come to the school in order to better prepare the young witches to defend themselves and to find out who did it.

In addition to more mundane threats the witches also face conflict with the Voodoo practitioners and believers in New Orleans. The Voodoo community is very active. Headed by Marie Laveau the Voodoo community has an uneasy truce with the witches until Fiona makes a strike at Marie. After that the two groups are once again in continuous conflict.

There is some serious star power in American Horror Story: Coven. Jessica Lange is Fiona, Lily Rabe is the young witch who was burned at the stake. Emma Roberts, Angela Basset, Patti LuPone, Kathy Bates, and Stevie Nicks all play major roles in the show. Stevie Nicks appears as herself in the show playing off the rumors that have existed for years that she is a practicing witch. The young witch who was burned at the stake was a huge fan of Stevie’s and copied her style almost exactly.   The high caliber of the actors in the show is one factor in the huge success enjoyed by the American Horror Story seasons. Ryan Murphy’s unique way of telling stories is another factor in the success of the show.

American Horror Story: Coven has been a big ratings draw for the FX network. The American Horror Story Coven premiere has 7.1 million viewers which is a very strong showing for a cable network. The only show that consistently delivers higher ratings is The Walking Dead on AMC which consistently brings in ratings of 12 million or more in its fourth season.

American Horror Story: Coven is not just about witches and Voodoo though. While the conflict between the two belief systems is a central theme of the show the relationships between the characters are also prominent themes. The delicate and complicated relationships between mothers and daughters as well as the importance of family, tradition and faith are at the core of the show. Even though the settings and story lines of American Horror Story change every season Ryan Murphy’s keen insights into human behavior remain the same. His unique ability to shine a light on the dark, weird, or unusual characteristics of people makes for fascinating television.

Glee was supposed to go on for another season but will end after the current season, leaving Ryan Murphy more time to develop the American Horror Story world. Glee has never really recovered from the death of star and fan favorite Cory Monteith. American Horror Story: Coven is airing now and will wrap up in early 2014. What’s next for American Horror Story only Ryan Murphy can say but it’s a good bet that fans will embrace it like they have embraced Coven.