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Change is a Good Thing

I'm a binge watcher. A product of my time. There are still, however, shows I will watch as they air. Sure, most of them are award shows, but that still counts, right?

American Horror Story falls into the very tiny category of non-awards shows I'll tune into live every week. After hearing a ton of hype, I watched the first couple seasons on Netflix, then started tuning in every Wednesday starting in season three. Even if I hadn't watched the first couple of seasons, I wouldn't have missed anything. Each season is a brand new story, a chance for the showrunners and a troupe of actors to explore something new.

After the third season, though, I felt like something was missing. The cast of characters kept getting bigger, more subplots kept developing, and, to me, the series began to feel scattered and unpolished. In short, it lost its edge. Despite loving the show and the amazing cast, I couldn't finish last season.

I went into this year thinking I was going to skip it altogether. I became what network executives have nightmares about: an audience member who had lost interest. That changed, however, with this season's marketing campaign, which, for the first time, relied on not revealing the new theme of the season until tonight's premiere. I tuned in and got hooked for what seems like the first time in a long time. The season, which is called The Roanoke Nightmare, follows a new docuseries-esque format, which I really think is going to give the season a focus its lacked in recent years.

When I turned off the TV, I got to thinking about why AHS works. TV has always relied on consistency to keep viewers glued to their screens every week, but this show is a hit without having to follow the same characters in the same situations season after season.

In reality, TV is really the only medium that can get away with this. Sure, there are franchises of films, bands and solo artists putting out similar work, magazines and websites that put out similar content (this blog included), but there's an evolution to artists in those fields.

Musicians especially thrive on evolution. Both Prince and David Bowie, two legendary artists who we unfortunately lost in the last year, changed their sound and their look constantly, keeping people on their toes and excited to hear what they were going to do next.

Filmmakers and actors explore different genres, types of characters, and stories throughout their careers. Rob Reiner went from making The Princess Bride in 1987 and When Harry Met Sally... in 1989 to Misery in 1990, and Misery's Oscar winning star Kathy Bates (who, coincidentally, is in AHS) made Fried Green Tomatoes the following year. Romantic comedies to thrillers, thrillers to Fannie Flagg adaptations, it's all possible. People go see movies with their favorite names attached and walk out of cinemas amazed and charmed by artists' versatility.

Why is that, though? Why do people seek change in their entertainment? On the surface, it doesn't exactly make sense. In a world that changes constantly, don't we want something that's going to stay the same? To make us comfortable?

In some cases, sure, but here's what I really think. Change is what makes us human. Our relationships, our locations, our families, our careers, they all change over time. People evolve. They grow. They rise above tough situations and they find solace in the good. It's what we're used to. Maybe we see something human in changes in entertainment. It's what makes us connect. As our favorite entertainers change, we ride along with them, knowing somewhere in our hearts and minds some of what it took them to get there.

That's just a theory, though, and if it's anything like the theory I had about AHS season 6, it's probably dead wrong.

If you dug this, like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and Letterboxd, and, as always, thanks for reading.


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