The debut season of American Horror Story, retrospectively titled “Murder House,” revolves around the Harmon family. They relocate to a renovated mansion in Los Angeles, seeking a fresh start after coping with a miscarriage and marital issues.
Unbeknownst to them, the house is plagued by the spirits of past residents and their unfortunate victims. The ensemble cast features Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Evan Peters, Taissa Farmiga, Denis O’Hare, and Jessica Lange.
This season was created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk for FX and was officially announced in February 2011, with production commencing in April of the same year.
It aired from Murder House October 5 to December 21, 2011, and was produced by 20th Century Fox Television. Dante Di Loreto served as the executive producer alongside Murphy and Falchuk.
“Mistress of the House of Murder” was generally well-received by critics and garnered consistently high ratings on FX, establishing itself as the year’s most successful new cable series.
The season earned numerous industry award nominations, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama. Jessica Lange won accolades for her supporting role, including the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Primetime Emmy Award.
Murder House Episode
|Original air date
|Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk
|October 5, 2011
|The Harmon family moves from Boston to Los Angeles to recover from mother Vivien’s miscarriage and father Ben’s infidelity with one of his students. Their daughter Violet starts at a new school, only to be terrorized by a group of girls. The family deals with intrusive neighbors Constance and her daughter, Addie, who has Down syndrome, along with Larry, a previous homeowner with a heavily scarred face who set fire to his entire family. Ben, a psychiatrist, sees patients in his home; one of them, a possibly psychotic boy named Tate, becomes friends with Violet. Vivien rehires the house’s former housekeeper, the elderly Moira, who appears to Ben as a young, seductive maid. Ben and Vivien eventually have sex, once after a fight, and later while she thinks he has dressed up in a bondage suit. She later tells Ben she’s pregnant.
Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk initiated the development of American Horror Story before commencing work on their Fox series, Glee. Murphy aimed to diverge from his previous projects, transitioning from Nip/Tuck to Glee, which led him to explore a more challenging and dark direction. He explained that their shared love for the horror genre made it a natural choice. Murder House Falchuk, driven by the desire to unsettle viewers, emphasized their primary objective of creating a series that left the audience slightly disoriented.
The series’ ominous ambiance drew inspiration from the ABC soap opera Dark Shadows, a show Murphy’s grandmother had him watch in his youth to toughen him up. Additionally, influences such as Rosemary’s Baby, Don’t Look Now, The Amityville Horror, and Stanley Kubrick’s rendition of The Shining played a role in shaping the series.
Murphy and Falchuk conceived the concept of American Horror Story as Murder House an anthology series, with each season narrating a distinct storyline. After the inaugural season’s conclusion, Murphy disclosed his plans to change the cast and setting for the next season while retaining some of the previous actors. He clarified that returning actors would portray entirely different characters, including creatures and monsters, as the Harmon family’s narrative had concluded.
Murder House In February 2011, FX officially greenlit a pilot for the series, with Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk handling the writing and Murphy taking on the directorial role. Dante Di Loreto was named as the executive producer, and production commenced in April 2011.
By July 2011, FX had confirmed a series order of 13 episodes. Murder House In August 2011, it was announced that Tim Minear, Jennifer Salt, James Wong, and Jessica Sharzer had joined the writing team for the series.
Crossover with Coven
In October 2016, Murphy revealed plans for an upcoming season of the series that would bring together the storylines of Murder House and Coven, interweaving their characters and themes. While he didn’t specify the exact season, he had already contacted actors from both seasons to reprise their roles.
Subsequently, Murphy confirmed that one of the characters from Murder Housewould make an appearance in the season finale of Coven. However, the announcement on January 5, 2018, originally indicated that the crossover season would occur in the ninth season. Yet, on June 14, 2018, it was decided to shift the crossover to the eighth season, which was titled “Apocalypse.”
Casting for American Horror Story Murder House began in March 2011, with Connie Britton being the first to join the cast, taking on the role of the female lead, Vivien Harmon. Britton mentioned that she saw this as a risk because it was unlike any role she had done before. When Ryan Murphy presented the character to her, he emphasized that it would be a departure from her previous work. Intrigued by the challenge, she accepted the part.
Murder House In a conversation with Entertainment Weekly, Murphy revealed that he had informed Connie Britton early on that her character, Vivien, would meet her demise in the first season. He explained that they had the entire season planned out from the start, allowing them to guide the core actors, including Connie, Dylan McDermott, and Jessica Lange, on the journey of their characters.
Denis O’Hare joined the cast in late March 2011, taking on the role of Larry Harvey. Jessica Lange became a part of the series in April 2011, playing Constance, marking her first regular role on television. Lange was drawn to the role because it didn’t require the lengthy commitment of a 22-episode network series, which was a significant factor for her. She noted her preference for cable television over network shows due to the flexibility it offered in terms of time commitment.
Dylan McDermott was cast as the lead character, Ben Harmon, in late April 2011. Initially described as a “handsome and masculine but sensitive therapist who loves his family but has hurt his wife,” McDermott expressed his desire to play this role to break away from his previous character, Bobby Donnell, in the ABC series The Practice. He saw it as an opportunity to challenge the perception of him solely as the guy from The Practice and introduce a different character to his repertoire.
In May 2011, Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters were the final lead actors to join the cast, portraying Violet Harmon and Tate Langdon, respectively. Farmiga immediately connected with her character, describing Violet as having spunk and attitude. Murphy characterized Tate as the “true monster” of the series and commended Evan Peters for making a challenging character like Tate sympathetic.
During the filming of American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy was in search of a house that possessed an eerie yet visually appealing quality. The pilot episode was filmed in a residence located in Country Club Park, Los Angeles, California. This house served as Murder House the haunted setting and crime scene in the series. Constructed in 1902 by Alfred Rosenheim, who was the president of the American Institute of Architects’ Los Angeles chapter, the house featured a Tudor or Collegiate Gothic-style design and had formerly functioned as a convent. To enhance the visual storytelling, CGI was employed to remove an adjoining chapel from exterior shots.
The production team meticulously recreated sets that replicated the house, maintaining intricate details such as Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows and hammered bronze light fixtures to ensure the house’s distinctive appearance was preserved.
In an interesting turn of events, the house was made available for rent on Airbnb for a period of six months, starting in February 2016, before being removed from listings.
Due to the demanding production schedule and the need to accommodate the filming of the series’ pilot alongside Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s other show, Glee, the initial plan for the first-season finale, the thirteenth episode, was shortened by thirty minutes. Murder House Ultimately, the thirteenth episode was dropped, and the twelfth episode was extended by 10 minutes, resulting in a 52-minute season finale that aired on December 21, 2011.
The opening title sequence for the series was crafted by Kyle Cooper and his company Prologue. Notably, he also designed title sequences for the AMC series The Walking Dead and the 1995 film Se7en. Murder House The haunting theme music for the sequence was composed by sound designer Cesar Davila-Irizarry and musician Charlie Clouser.
The title sequence is situated in the Harmons’ basement and features a series of disturbing images. These include postmortem young children, preserved unborn or possibly aborted fetuses in jars, skulls, a christening dress, a nurse’s uniform, and a mysterious figure clutching a pair of blood-soaked hedge clippers. Murder House Ryan Murphy characterized the sequence as a miniature enigma and expressed, “By the time you see the ninth episode of this season, every image in that title sequence will be explained.”
American Horror Story: Murder House received positive reviews from critics. Metacritic provided a weighted score of 65 out of 100 based on 164 reviews, indicating “generally favorable reviews.” Rotten Tomatoes reported a “Certified Fresh” approval rating of 72%, with an average score of 6.55/10 from 147 reviews. The consensus on the website states, “Though complex, American Horror Story manages to be both strange and twisted enough to captivate viewers.”
Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly awarded the pilot episode a B+ and described the show as a constant thrill of scares, featuring abundant screams, intense moments, shocking scenes, unsettling behavior, and dark themes.
Chuck Barney from the San Jose Mercury News emphasized the show’s lasting impact on viewers, stating, “Most TV shows are easily forgotten, but this one will linger in your nightmares.”
Hank Stuever of The Washington Post acknowledged Ryan Murphy’s penchant for going to extremes but praised the series for its captivating style and intriguing, albeit shocking, content.
Mike Hale of The New York Times recognized the show as a more traditional and well-crafted horror series, drawing comparisons to successful shows like HBO’s True Blood and AMC’s The Walking Dead.
The pilot episode of American Horror Story: Murder House achieved a 1.6 ratings share among adults aged 18–49, with 3.2 million viewers. In total, it reached 5.2 million viewers across two airings. These numbers marked a significant milestone for FX, as they were the highest ratings the network had ever received for a series premiere. Murder House Coupled with the strong performance of FX’s returning original series like Sons of Anarchy, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and The League, the episode contributed to making October the most-watched month in the history of FX.
Murder House As the season unfolded, the ratings continued to climb. The fourth episode received a 1.7 ratings share among adults aged 18–49, surpassing the pilot episode by a tenth of a point. The seventh episode reached a viewership of 3.06 million and achieved a series high with a 1.8 ratings share in the 18–49 demographic. The season finale was watched by 3.22 million viewers and received a 1.7 ratings share in the 18–49 demographic. The first season of American Horror Story was on par with the TNT series Falling Skies as the most successful new cable series of the year among adults aged 18–49.
The international premiere of American Horror Story in November 2011, broadcast across Europe and Latin America on Fox International Channels, ranked first or second in most metered markets for its time slot. Murder House In the UK, it premiered on the non-terrestrial channel FX and attracted 128,200 viewers. The second episode saw a 27% increase in viewership, reaching a total of 158,700 viewers.
However, not all reviews were positive. Alan Sepinwall of HitFix gave the series a D−, describing it as excessively over-the-top to the point where it loses sight of any semblance of restraint.
|American Horror Story – The Complete First Season
|12 Episodes4 Disc Set (DVD)3 Disc Set (BD)English 5.1 Dolby DigitalSubtitles: English SDH, Spanish, FrenchRuntime: 533 Minutes
|Audio Commentary on the Pilot EpisodeThe Murder House presented by Eternal Darkness Tours of HollywoodBehind the Fright: The Making of American Horror StoryOverture to Horror: Creating the Title SequenceOut of the Shadows: Meet the House Ghosts
|September 25, 2012
|October 15, 2012
|October 19, 2012