A Thanksgiving break allows us to take stock of American Horror Story's ratings slump and how much can be blamed on the "saviour" of the Hotel Cortez, Lady Gaga's Countess. It turns out a lot. We go through Season 5 with a fine-tooth comb to find out what's going on
It's been eight episodes and eight straight weeks of downward ratings for Ryan Murphy's once singular American Horror Story franchise. But with the much-hyped departure of series all-star Jessica Lange and her overhyped replacement Lady Gaga, fans and critics alike were hoping Season's 5's Hotel would turn a new chapter for FX's most successful property. But then the ratings kept dipping, and dipping.... and dipping. In fact, the last instalment before the Thanksgiving week break, Episode 7's Rudy Valentino schtick, was the first American Horror Story this season not to drop below the previous week's ratings, managing to merely equal them instead. That being the case, however, AHS is still FX's top series offering and remains, in spite of the in-house disappointment, the top-performing cable show of Wednesday night. So who, or what, can we blame for the ratings theatrics taking place off-screen? Given Ryan Murphy's stellar flop with Fox's Scream Queens, it may just be that prime time's king of kitsch has lost his groove, misreading the hipster cynicism of his target audience as an appetite for camp. That might have worked with Glee, but the dark side asks for more than a couple bloody sex scenes.
Also, as I previously noted in the American Horror Story Episode 8 teaser trailer, Season 5 is rich in side-plots and episodic marginalia. But the problem is, that's all it has. The lack of a hard story line means minor story arcs surface and fizzle out until the next random time writers decide to eschew the gratuitous and by now tedious blood letting to bring us up to speed. Think about the Ramona Royale and Donovan arc. I mean, who cares anymore? If the writers don't respect their audience enough to tell a good story, can you blame people for dropping from one languorous week to the next? And then there's the issue of the Hotel's main attraction, Lady Gaga. Props to her for upping her acting game in Episode 7. But that may be too little too late. The only thing we saw of the Countess before then, besides her outlandish costume changes, was that awkward smile pasted to her lips as though the very idea that the goddess of pop culture would stoop to the level of acting was a matter of eminent humour to her and her alone. Never mind the real talent, most notably Denis O'Hare as Liz Taylor and Kathy Bates as Iris, are giving it their all to balance Mother Monster on their shoulders while trying to make a tuneless script sing. As far as I can tell, American Horror Story has been down so long, it can only look up from here. What are your thoughts on Season 5 so far?