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TV Wasteland: Asylum on Fire
American Horror Story quietly pushes boundaries on the Wasteland
By Rob Vaux
January 21, 2013
© 20th Century Fox/Robert Trate
American Horror Story: Asylum ends its second season tonight. If it’s anything like the first season finale, we’re in for a wild ride. The show is based on the notion of a series of one-shot seasons, which means they could literally kill everyone on Wednesday night and start again next year. Considering that this season features evil nuns, exorcisms, alien visitations, multiple-generation serial killers, and a murderer dressed as Santa Claus, all bets are off.
Television in other countries often indulges in “extended miniseries” like this: a story that lasts twelve or thirteen episodes and a rough ensemble of actors who take on entirely new characters with each fresh season. We haven’t seen much of it in U.S. television, which has given American Horror Story its distinctive bite. That lets it push the Lynchian weirdness into all kinds of interesting directions, and if something doesn’t work… hey, there’s a cosmic reset button at the end of every season! It’s worked quite well so far and, while not quite a phenomenon, has still proven successful enough to encourage other stations to follow suit. I could definitely think of worse developments… and eagerly await what this wonderfully whackadoodle show has in store for us next season.
American Horror Story: Asylum airs its season finale this Wednesday, January 23, at 10:00 PM EST on FX.
Continuum (Syfy, 8:00 PM EST)
Kiera loses her cover and has to strike a bargain with Liber8 if she ever wants to get back to her own time.
Being Human (Syfy, 9:00 PM EST)
Josh has to figure out where he stands with Nora, while Sally catches up with an old flame… who’s presumably dead as well.
Lost Girl (Syfy, 10:00 PM EST)
Bo and Kenzi head out in search of one of Kenzi’s old friends, even as Dyson’s new partner keeps giving Bo the willies.
Braveheart (AMC, 8:00 PM EST)
One great speech doth not a movie make, even one involving ass-kicking Scotsmen.
The Incredible Hulk (FMC, 7:30 PM EST and 10:00 PM EST)
Not Marvel’s strongest entry of late, but it has its pleasures. Edward Norton stars.
The Last Airbender (Nickelodeon, 8:00 PM EST)
Shyamalan has actually been worse, but dropping the ball on adapting this well-regarded animated series hasn’t helped his cause much.
Underworld (Spike, 8:00 PM EST)
Good actors and bad intermingle while wearing Goth fetish gear. It ain’t high art, but damn it looks good.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (IFC, 10: 15 PM EST)
Douglas Adams’ redoubtable sci-fi comedy gets the big screen treatment with pretty good results.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Starz, 6:40 PM EST)
Jack Sparrow sets out to find the Fountain of Youth in the fourth entry to the series. It solves a lot of the problems that the third movie has, though most critics didn’t seem to agree.
The Bourne Supremacy (Starz, 9:00 PM EST)
Matt Damon sticks it to the new Doctor McCoy in the second entry in the redoubtable spy franchise.
Face Off (Syfy, 9:00 PM EST)
It’s comic book time, as the competitors create their own superheroes. The winning design will be put into a DC comic, which is kind of awesome. And by “kind of,” I mean “extremely.”
Hostel (IFC, 8:00 PM EST)
A group of douchebags take up the wrong invitation in a torture porn staple that really deserves to be forgotten.
Teeth (IFC, 10:00 PM EST)
Horror and social commentary have always been close bedfellows, never more so than this tasty little number about a Promise Keeper who grows fangs in her delicate lady parts.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Starz, 6:50 PM EST)
Not Spielberg’s worst film, but almost certainly his most irrelevant.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (Starz, 9:00 PM EST)
I’m willing to forgive Hugh Grant quite a bit for this delightful piece of absurdity.
Freaky Friday (Starz, 10:35 PM EST)
Say, who’s the young female lead here? She’s really good. It would be a shame if she ever immolated her career in an orgy of drugs and tabloid headlines…
Gone in 60 Seconds (AMC, 8:00 PM EST and 10:31 PM EST)
So you’re saying that Nic Cage made lunatic movies even before the IRS came after him? Good to know.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Cinemax, 7:45 PM EST)
Robert Downey, Jr. sold us all on his version of Sherlock Holmes… until this movie.
Blue Velvet (Cinemax, 10:00 PM EST)
I’m not sure why gas huffing is so creepy, but we can probably blame David Lynch for it.
Fantastic Four (FMC, 8:00 PM EST and 10:30 PM EST)
Marvel’s number-one family goes number two all over us…
Ghost Hunters (Syfy, 9:00 PM EST)
Your guess is as good as mine this week. All we know is, it’s new.
Arrow (The CW, 8:00 PM EST)
Diggle’s mentor may be behind a series of armored car robberies, and Oliver has no problems locking horns with Diggle over it.
Supernatural (The CW, 9:00 PM EST)
A live action role-playing game kills two people… just like all those Christian lunatics said it would!
America Horror Story: Asylum (FX, 10:00 PM EST)
The second season ends, and judging by the first season, this ought to be quite the jaw-dropper.
The Fugitive (AMC, 8:00 PM EST)
Tommy Lee Jones chases Harrison Ford all across the Midwest in a terrific version of the cult classic TV series.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (FX, 7:30 PM EST)
Didn’t we banish this franchise to the netherworld?
The Day after Tomorrow (HBO, 6:15 PM EST)
Okay, was this the one with John Cusack and the giant boats, or the one with Jake Gyllenhaal outrunning the weather? It was Jake’s? Got it.
Friday the 13th – Part III and Friday the 13th – The Final Chapter (IFC, 8:00 PM EST and 10:00 PM EST)
Jason gets his hockey mask and then Tommy puts him in the ground. Do we really need anything else from this series?
Rambo Trilogy (Spike, 6:10 PM EST, 8:15 PM EST and 10:19 PM EST)
As I pointed out last week, there’s actually four of them. Spike is running the first three.
Spy Kids 3: Game Over (Starz, 7:30 PM EST)
Tell Stallone to step away from the bad guy role. He’s just not cut out for it.
Being John Malkovich (Sundance, 10:00 PM EST)
Still waiting for the sequel to this one. The Malkoviching has a nice ring to it.
Last Resort (ABC, 8:00 PM EST)
The series comes to an end as Chaplin fights to keep the Colorado free.
The Vampire Diaries (The CW, 8:00 PM EST)
Damon’s gotta get Jeremy up to speed before a fresh new crop of vampires shows up to kick his undead ass.
Beauty and the Beast (The CW, 9:00 PM EST)
Vincent’s former fiancée almost gets a good long look at what her ex-beau is up to these days.
King of the Nerds (TBS, 10:00 PM EST)
I was going to ignore this incredibly humiliating reality show, but I can’t deny Booger a steady paycheck. The nerds face off over a tabletop role-playing game in this week’s challenge.
Nanny McPhee and Nanny McPhee Returns (ABC Family, at 6:30 PM EST and 8:30 PM EST)
Emma Thompson heads up this pair of children’s fantasies about a magical nanny who isn’t Mary Poppins. The sequel improves a great deal upon the original.
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (Disney, 8:00 PM EST)
Team Jacob fans in need of a good skeeving can watch their heartthrob when he was way too young to be lusting after here.
Reign of Fire (FMC, 8:00 PM EST and 10:00 PM EST)
Christian Bale can be pretty tough, even without the Batmobile helping him out.
The Last Legion (IFC, 8:00 PM EST)
King Arthur has definitely seen better days.
Dead Season (Syfy, 7:00 PM EST)
Apparently, islands don’t help much when it comes to dispatching zombies.
Resident Evil (Syfy, 9:00 PM EST)
Milla Jovovich rocks the house in the first of a seemingly endless franchise based on the bestselling video game.
Reservoir Dogs (Showtime, 9:00 PM EST)
Saying “the film that made Steve Buscemi” makes it sound way less cool than it actually is.
The Big Bang Theory and Elementary are reruns this week.
Nikita (The CW, 8:00 PM EST)
Nikita confronts Owen over the fate of an agent who has gone rogue.
Merlin (Syfy, 10:00 PM EST)
Morgana hatches a new scheme, and it’s a doozy.
Spartacus (Starz, 9:00 PM EST)
The final series of the hit gratuitous-violence-and-junk-shots show opens with Marcus Crassus taking up the issue of Spartacus and his army.
Hard Candy (Sundance, 8:00 PM EST)
This one’s a big favorite of mine: a beautiful cat-and-mouse thriller concerning a would-be pederast and his latest prey (who turns out to be more than ready for him).
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (ABC Family, 8:30 PM EST)
Big, bold and far from perfect, this effect-heavy blockbuster still benefits from a resolute competence.
Fast Five (Cinemax, 7:45 PM EST)
How many more sequels are they going to do before they finally loop back up with Tokyo Drift?
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (FX, 7:00 PM EST)
It’s the one with the pyramids, if that makes any difference.
The A-Team (FX, 10:00 PM EST)
I like Bradley Cooper, but an Oscar nomination? Seriously?
Hanna (HBO, 8:00 PM EST)
Saoirse Ronan is so awesome in this, I’m overlooking her appearance in the new Stephanie Meyer film sight unseen.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1 (Showtime, 8:00 PM EST)
No one here is forgiven, but I wish them well.
The Green Mile (Spike, 7:00 PM EST)
Stephen King adaptations don’t get much more prestigious than this one, focusing on a condemned inmate with the power to heal.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Starz, 7:10 PM EST)
We can only pray that it never gets worse than this for Marvel.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (ABC Family, 8:00 PM EST)
Jack’s great, Barbosa is in fine form, but the rest of the film is an ungodly mess.
Identity (AMC, 8:00 PM EST)
John Cusack ends up at the worst motel since Norman Bates, with a group of people who may be hiding a killer in their ranks.
Signs (AMC, 10:00 PM EST)
M. Night Shyamalan used to be a real filmmaker… look!
From Hell (BBC America, 6:30 PM EST)
The BBC backs up its new show Ripper Street with a solid look at the Jack the Ripper murders, courtesy of the Hughes brothers.
Troy (Cinemax, 10:00 PM EST)
The rumors are true: Sean Bean does survive until the end.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (FMC, 8:00 PM EST)
Brad Pitt ages in reverse, aided by visual effects that aren’t quite enough to make up for the soggy script.
Wrath of the Titans (HBO, 8:00 PM EST)
I’m not the biggest fan of Sam Worthington, but you can’t accuse him of not trying.
House of 1000 Corpses (IFC, 8:00 PM EST)
Rob Zombie means well, but his efforts come across as merely cruel rather than horrifying.
Underworld: Awakening (Starz, 7:00 PM EST)
Even Beckinsale looks bored in this one.
The Raid: Redemption (Starz, 10:00 PM EST)
This highly touted actioner from Asia features a lone cop taking on an entire building full of evil crooks. Enjoy!
Snow Beast (Syfy, 7:00 PM EST)
We have a John Schneider alert!
The Abominable Snowman (Syfy, 9:00 PM EST)
We’re setting the Wayback Machine to 1996 for this little gem. I’m sure it only gets better with age.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (USA, 8:30 PM EST)
A guy named Joe plays Cobra Commander. Soak in the delicious irony for a bit, then we’ll move on.
Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited (BBC America, 9:00 PM EST)
BBC America unveils a new series of Doctor Who
retrospectives. This one focuses on the First Doctor, William Hartnell. As always, Our Girl Marcia Franklin has it all covered over on Confessions of a Neowhovian
A Knight’s Tale (AMC, 8:00 PM EST)
Paul Bettany pretty much steals the show as Geoffrey Chaucer in a rock-and-roll revamp of classic English chivalry.
Casino Royale (BBC America, 6:00 PM EST)
What we’re now calling the “reboot” trilogy got off to a roaring start, as Daniel Craig took up the mantle of 007 for the first time.
I, Robot (Cinemax, 10:00 PM EST)
Once again, Will Smith makes everything better.
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (Syfy, 8:00 PM EST)
The best of the Underworld series is the only one that doesn’t feature Kate Beckinsale… who, ironically, is the best thing about all the other movies in the series.
Dragonwasps (Syfy, 10:00 PM EST)
As with most Syfy original movies, the name says it all.
Once Upon a Time is a rerun tonight.