Just yesterday, it was announced that The Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal was developing an eight- to 10-hour drama “event series” about the 2016 election. It of course remains to be seen how much perspective can be cast on a historical portrait of something that…just happened — but Boal, from his past, detail-oriented examinations of war and politics with directing collaborator Kathryn Bigelow — certainly seemed among the most able people to take on that challenge. Only a day later, there’s news of what’s sure to be a drastically different stylistic take: Ryan Murphy is also making this American horror story one of his American Horror Stor[ies].
Of late, for his respective shows, Murphy has been building quite the collection of bizarre, sensational historical narratives to call his own. From the Clinton Scandal to the mishandling of Hurricane Katrina to the murder of Gianni Versace to the feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford to the disappearance of the Roanoke colony, Murphy is laying televisual claim on a great deal of fraught stories. Last night on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, Murphy announced, “I don’t have a title, but the season that we begin shooting in June is going to be about the election that we just went through.”
Entertainment Weekly notes that this is among the only details known about the next season of the series, beyond that mainstays Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters are involved.
While Boal might be assumed to take a hyper-realistic approach, it’s hard to anticipate how anyone will feel about reliving this whole thing as a narrative near-reality any time soon — so the AHS flair might provide the right amount of remove. Murphy’s knack for camp could provide a biting, irreverent, and wildly absurd commentary, going places SNL dare not go. The foreseeable problem, of course, could be that AHS has always sounded better in theory than it’s been in reality.
Boal is a great storyteller, while Murphy… made American Horror Story: Freak Show. Murphy’s simultaneous penchant, particularly in AHS, for becoming so digressive as to never engage audiences beyond style and gross-out tactics could prove — as every season of AHS since the second has — a disappointment yet again.
So, there’s intrigue — and perhaps a dose of uncertainty — involved in applying notions of both artists’ styles to this unique horror story. It’ll be interesting, and maybe a little annoying, and maybe a little enlightening, to see how differently and effectively (or for that matter ineffectively) recent, disturbing memory can be rendered in two separate projects by artists whose work couldn’t be less similar.