January 15, 2012 9:30am PT by Lesley Goldberg
TCA: 'American Horror Story': FX Boss Didn't Want to Diminish the Experience
FX president and GM John Landgraf praised the network's freshman horror drama American Horror Story, noting working with Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy was a "wild ride."
The series, which he noted was the No. 1 new drama on basic cable in the coveted 18-49 demographic, was revealed to be an anthology series in which every season would be a stand-alone story with a new cast, story and location.
In the finale, leads Ben and Vivien Harmon (Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton) were both killed, thus following the season's mythology and trapping them in the purgatory of the "Murder House" at the center of the show.
Speaking to reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour, Landgraf said the network intentionally didn't want to reveal the unique format of the series.
"We didn't want to tell the audience what was going to happen … since we were going to burn this cast and location to the ground," he said, adding that he didn't want to diminish the audience's experience.
"I knew the entire family was going to die by end of the season," Landgraf said, adding that his biggest concern for the series was the audience being ahead of the protagonists.
"We knew certain critics would get frustrated because they knew more than the leads," he said. "It's a classic rule of storytelling: the leads should know more than the audience, not less. What was interesting was Ryan managed to evolve Jessica Lange into something of a lead character by the end. After the lead characters were dead and they knew everything, they were able to recapture their status as leads."
In a December conference call with reporters the day after the Season 1 finale, Landgraf and Murphy revealed the nature of the show. While it's unclear just who from the original cast would return, Landgraf told reporters that Murphy is in discussions with "two or possibly three" of the existing cast members -- both series regulars and guest stars. He declined to name names.
Landgraf touted Murphy's track record with FX's Nip/Tuck in reinventing series, when the plastic surgery drama moved locations from Miami to Los Angeles and changed the central location of the story and created entirely new sets.
"You have to expect that you're going to be on a wild ride," Landgraf said of working with Murphy, who co-created American Horror Story with his Glee partner, Brad Falchuk.
American Horror Story's freshman season ended its run as the highest-rated freshman season of any series on FX, drawing 3.22 million viewers.