The story takes place in 2011 and follows the Harmon family: psychiatrist Ben (Dylan McDermott), his wife Vivien (Connie Britton), and their teenage daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), who move from Boston to Los Angeles after Vivien has a miscarriage and Ben had an affair. The Harmons move into a restored mansion and soon encounter the home's former residents, the Langdons – Constance (Jessica Lange) and her two children, Tate (Evan Peters), and Addie (Jamie Brewer) – and the disfigured Larry Harvey (Denis O'Hare). Ben and Vivien try to rekindle their relationship, as Violet, suffering from depression, finds comfort with Tate. The Langdons and Larry frequently influence the Harmons' lives, as the family discovers that the home is haunted by the ghosts of anyone who has ever died on the property. The season is primarily set in the modern day, with flashbacks to the 1920s, 1940s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.
The story takes place in 1964 and follows the patients, doctors, and nuns who occupy the Briarcliff Mental Institution, located in Massachusetts and founded to treat and house the criminally insane. The wardens who run the institution include the stern Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), her protégé Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe), and the founder of the institution, Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes). The doctors charged with treating the patients at the asylum include psychiatrist Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) and the sadistic scientist Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell). The patients, many of whom claim to be unjustly institutionalized, include lesbian journalist Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), accused serial killer Kit Walker (Evan Peters), nymphomaniac Shelley (Chloe Sevigny), and alleged murderer Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré). Briarcliff's inhabitants are routinely subject to supernatural and scientific influences, including demonic possession and extraterrestrial abduction. The season primarily takes place throughout the 1960s with flashbacks to the 1940s and flash-forwards to the 1970s, 1980s and 2012.
The story takes place in 2013 and follows the descendants of the witches who survived the Salem Witch Trials, who are nearly extinct and are in danger once again. Those who share this genetic affliction are being subjected to strange and violent attacks. A mysterious all-girls boarding school has opened in New Orleans to protect and house young women who carry this unique bloodline, and keep them from the dangers of the outside world. The long-absent Supreme, and most powerful witch of her generation, Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), arrives to ensure the safety of the Coven, but also to fulfill her own hidden agenda, with the constant criticism of her sister, Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy). Fiona's daughter, Cordelia (Sarah Paulson), teaches at the school and welcomes its newest student, Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga), who harbors her own harrowing secret and who falls in love with Kyle (Evan Peters). Veteran students include the witches Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts), Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) and Nan (Jamie Brewer).Other important characters include Misty Day (Lily Rabe), who resurrects after being burn at the stake and Spalding (Denis O'Hare), the butler of the coven. Events reveal a long-held rivalry between the witches of Salem and the voodoo practitioners of New Orleans, as well as a historic grudge between Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) and socialite serial killer Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates). Other themes include witchcraft, voodoo, racism, death, and family, such as the relationships between mothers and daughters. The season is set primarily in the modern day and includes flashbacks to the 1910s, 1970s, 1960s, and the 1830s.
The story takes place in 1952 in the quiet town of Jupiter, Florida and follows a struggling freak show led by Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange). Decades have passed since the public has looked upon freak shows as a form of entertainment, but Elsa dreams of finding a home for her "monsters", as well as her own fame. When conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson) are taken to the hospital, Elsa sees her chance to finally drum up some business for her sideshow, hoping the two sisters will save her troupe once and for all. Other members include Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters), a boy born with syndactyly who dreams of leaving the carny life behind and living a normal life. Jimmy's mother, the bearded lady Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates), is Elsa's second in command and maintains law and order under the tent. A Strongman from Ethel's troubled past named Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis), and his three-breasted wife, Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett), make waves when they arrive at the sideshow. Two evil characters of the story are Stanley (Denis O'Hare) and Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts), who want to kill the freaks for money. Gloria (Frances Conroy) and Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock) also contribute to spoil the freak show. In a time when the era of television is beginning to reign high above sideshow acts, these individuals must overcome those who persecute them based on their looks. However, as events unfold, it is revealed that multiple dark entities have taken up residence in Jupiter, with all of their eyes being set on the freaks. The main recurring theme throughout this season is acceptance, examples being the freaks' need to be accepted by the people of Jupiter and Dandy's desire to become a freak and to be accepted as a freak. Flashbacks are set in the 1930s and 1940s, and a flash forward to the 1960s.
The story takes place in 2015 in Los Angeles, California in the haunted, retro Hotel Cortez which was built to become a torture chamber for the customers by the founder James Patrick March (Evan Peters). The wardens of the hotel includes the 111 year old vampire, Elizabeth Johnson (Lady Gaga), and the front desk clerk and manager, Iris (Kathy Bates). The residents and guests include the drug addicted prostitute ghost, Sally McKenna (Sarah Paulson), Iris' hateful son and former drug addict turned vampire lover of Elizabeth, Donovan (Matt Bomer), transgender bartender Liz Taylor (Denis O'Hare), actress and revengeful former lover of Elizabeth, Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett), male model heartthrob and murder addict Tristan Duffy (Finn Wittrock), New York fashion designer and current purchaser Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson), and the suspicious and soon going insane detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) and his depressed wife Alex (Chloë Sevigny). When Lowe checks in to the hotel, what he doesn't know is that he is targeted by a serial murderer, The Ten Commandments Killer, which will bring the inside and outside danger crashing together. Main themes include addiction, insanity and forgiveness. Alongside being set in modern day, flashbacks are set in the 1920s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, with an epilogue set in 2022.
In 2015, Shelby Miller (Lily Rabe), her husband Matt Miller (André Holland) and Matt's sister Lee Harris (Adina Porter) appear on a documentary called My Roanoke Nightmare, to recount a series of supernatural events that happened to them after Shelby and Matt relocated from Los Angeles to North Carolina following a miscarriage. During their stay at the house, the family has a terrifying experience, because their house is on the land where the Roanoke Colony moved after the famous disappearance, led by witch Scathach, Thomasin White, known as The Butcher, and her insane crew. Audrey Tindall (Sarah Paulson) is the actress who portrays Shelby during the reenactment sections of My Roanoke Nightmare, while Dominic Banks (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and Monet Tumusiime (Angela Bassett) portray Matt and Lee respectively. The Butcher is played by Agnes Mary Winstead (Kathy Bates), her son, Ambrose White, by Dylan (Wes Bentley) and the founder of the house, Edward Philippe Mott, by Rory Monahan (Evan Peters). Elias Cunningham, the previous owner of the house, is portrayed by William van Henderson (Denis O'Hare) and Scathach by an unknown actress (Lady Gaga). In 2016, after the huge success of My Roanoke Nightmare, the producer of the series, Sidney Aaron James (Cheyenne Jackson), decides to give life to the second season of the series: Return to Roanoke: Three Days In Hell, bringing back to the house the Millers and the actors who re-enact the experiences of the family. During three days, all the people die under mysterious circumstances, except for one. The season takes place primarily throughout 2015 and 2016, with dramaticized flashbacks through the My Roanoke Nightmare documentary of the 1500s, 1700's, and 1990's, and an epilogue taking place in the near future, possibly in October–November 2016.
On October 4, 2016, the series was renewed for a seventh season, which is set to premiere in September 2017. Ryan Murphy confirmed that the season will be connected to Freak Show; but will be set in modern day. Series mainstays Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters were reported to be starring as the leads in the season, during the Winter 2017 TCA Press Tour. In February 2017, on Watch What Happens Live, Murphy announced that the season would revolve around the 2016 U.S. election and suggested that it may feature a character based on President Donald Trump.
On January 12, 2017, the series was renewed for an eighth season which is set to premiere in 2018.
On January 12, 2017, a ninth season was confirmed and is set to air in 2019.
Creators Murphy and Falchuk began working on American Horror Story before their Fox series Glee began production. Murphy wanted to do the opposite of what he had done previously and thus began his work on the series. He stated: "I went from Nip/Tuck to Glee, so it made sense that I wanted to do something challenging and dark. And I always had loved, as Brad had, the horror genre. So it just was a natural for me." Falchuk was intrigued by the idea of putting a different angle on the horror genre, stating that their main goal in creating the series was to scare viewers. You want people to be a little bit off balance afterwards," he said.
In February 2011, FX officially announced that it had ordered a pilot for a possible series from Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, with both Murphy and Falchuk writing and Murphy directing. Dante Di Loreto was announced as executive producer. Production on the series began in April 2011. In July 2011, FX officially announced the project had been picked up to series.
From the beginning, Murphy and Falchuk planned that each season of the series would tell a different story. After the first season finale aired, Murphy spoke of his plans to change the cast and location for the second season. He did say, however, that some actors who starred in the first season would be returning. "The people that are coming back will be playing completely different characters, creatures, monsters, etc. [The Harmons'] stories are done. People who are coming back will be playing entirely new characters," he announced. In November 2012, FX chief executive, John Landgraf, described the unique format of the series stating: "[T]he notion of doing an anthological series of miniseries with a repertory cast – has proven groundbreaking, wildly successful and will prove to be trendsetting."
At the 2013 PaleyFest, Falchuk compared the series to horror films: "It does demand a little bit of compassion at the end because you fall in love with these characters in a different way than you would in a movie," he said. "If you want to kill everybody in a movie except one person, you can kind of get away with that, but if you're looking to do a horror TV show, you have a different responsibility to the characters because the audience has a different affection for them."
Murphy then explained the process of planning a series' season takes about a year. "We come up with story first and then we come up with the characters," he said. "It is a repertory company, so we'll move people around and sometimes there won't yet be a role for somebody. Like when we started [the second season], I really had no idea that Dylan [McDermott] would be the person to play Sarah's son, but the deeper we got, I thought, that would work great."
In an August 2015 article for Entertainment Weekly, Murphy revealed that the show is mulling producing two seasons a year. The first being broadcast in the spring and the second in the fall. He explained, "We're doing something that we've never done before on the show where we're doing two different groups of writers rooms. Some of our writers will be bouncing around but a whole different group coming in late August. The next thing we’re crafting up is very, very different than [Hotel]. Not smaller. But just not opulent. More rogue and more dark."
Connie Britton was first to be cast in the series, portraying female lead Vivien Harmon on Murder House. Denis O'Hare joined second as Larry Harvey. Jessica Lange soon followed as Constance, her first regular role on television. Dylan McDermott joined the cast soon after Lange as the male lead Ben Harmon. Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters were the last actors to be added to the main cast, portraying Violet Harmon and Tate Langdon, respectively.
In March 2012, Murphy revealed that the second season had been conceptualized around Jessica Lange who portrays Sister Jude, a sadistic nun who runs the asylum. Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe and Zachary Quinto also return as main cast members in the second season. Peters portrays Kit Walker, an inmate accused of murdering his wife. Paulson portrays Lana, a lesbian reporter who gets committed to the asylum because of her sexuality and intent to snoop around the sanitorium. Rabe's character is Sister Mary Eunice, clumsy second-in-charge to Sister Jude. Quinto portrays Dr. Thredson, a psychiatrist at the asylum. Lizzie Brocheré stars as Grace Bertrand, a character described originally as "a fierce, ferocious, extremely sexual, and dangerous wild-child sexpot", but the role was later heavily revamped. James Cromwell co-stars as Dr. Arthur Arden, who proclaims to be in charge of the asylum and performs dark experiments on its patients. Joseph Fiennes starred as Monsignor Timothy Howard, a possible love interest for Sister Jude.
For the third season, series executive producers and co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk stated that, as with the second season, "many actors" would return in different roles, beginning with Jessica Lange. Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson were confirmed to return, portraying Kyle Spencer and Cordelia Foxx, respectively. Murphy added that Lange would portray a "real glamour-cat lady", later revealed to be named Fiona Goode. Taissa Farmiga, Violet in the first season, starred as Zoe Benson, a character that is involved in a prominent romance during the season. Lily Rabe co-starred as Misty Day. Series recurring actress Frances Conroy joined as a main cast member, playing the character of Myrtle Snow. Oscar-winning actress Kathy Bates was confirmed to co-star. It was first reported that she would portray "a woman who, at the start, is Lange's character's best friend, but will become her worst enemy", but this was altered. Murphy stated that Bates' character will be "five times worse than [her] Misery character" and is also inspired by a "true event". She portrayed Madame Delphine LaLaurie, an immortal racist. It was announced in May 2013 that Emma Roberts had been added to the cast. Roberts played Madison Montgomery, a "self-involved party girl".
In November 2013, Ryan Murphy confirmed that Jessica Lange would be returning for a fourth season, although in a reduced capacity. It was later revealed she would be playing Freak Show owner Elsa Mars. Kathy Bates returned in a main role, portraying bearded lady Ethel Darling. On March 29, 2014, Murphy announced that Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Frances Conroy, Emma Roberts, Denis O'Hare, and Angela Bassett would all return for the fourth season. Paulson portrayed conjoined sisters Bette and Dot Tattler; Peters portrayed "Lobster Boy" Jimmy Darling; Conroy played the well-off Gloria Mott; Bassett portrayed three-breasted hermaphrodite Desiree Dupree; and O'Hare played Stanley, a conman working with Roberts' Maggie Esmerelda. At PaleyFest 2014, it was revealed that Michael Chiklis would be joining the cast as Dell Toledo, the father of Jimmy, ex-husband of Ethel, and current husband of Desiree. Finn Wittrock later joined the main cast as Conroy's spoiled son, Dandy Mott.
It was announced on February 25, 2015, that singer-songwriter Lady Gaga would co-star on the fifth cycle of the series, subtitled Hotel. It was announced at the 2015 PaleyFest that Matt Bomer and Cheyenne Jackson will co-star, and that Lange would not be returning. Since PaleyFest, Murphy has announced the series returns of Wes Bentley, Chloë Sevigny, Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Angela Bassett, and Finn Wittrock. On June 18, 2015, Murphy revealed to Deadline.com that Denis O'Hare would also return.
The pilot episode was shot on location in a house in Country Club Park, Los Angeles, California, which serves as the haunted house and crime scene in the series. Designed and built in 1908 by Alfred Rosenheim, the president of the American Institute of Architects' Los Angeles chapter, the Tudor or Collegiate Gothic-style single family home was previously used as a convent. The first season was filmed on sets which are an exact replica of the house. Details such as Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows and hammered bronze light fixtures were re-created to preserve the look of the house.
Production and shooting for the second season began in late July 2012 for a scheduled premiere in mid October. The exteriors for the second season were filmed in Hidden Valley, Ventura County, California, a rural area outside Los Angeles.
Principal photography for the third season began on July 23, 2013, in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was first reported that the season would film in multiple locations, but filming primarily took place in New Orleans.
Principal photography for season 4 began on July 15, 2014, in New Orleans, though the story takes place in Jupiter, Florida.
Principal photography for season 5 began on July 14, 2015, in Los Angeles, California, where the story also takes place. Murphy revealed a six-story hotel set was being built on the Fox lot. A dummy set of the hotel was built at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con International, showing an Art Deco style building from the 1920s, inspired by the old Hollywood era.
American Horror Story's title screens offer vague hints to important plot elements and events that compose each season. For Murder House, Murphy described the sequence as a mini-mystery and stated that: "By the time you see the ninth episode of this season, every image in that title sequence will be explained," establishing the purpose of the title sequence for future seasons.
The opening title sequence was created by Kyle Cooper and his company Prologue. He also created the title sequence for the AMC series The Walking Dead and the 1995 film Seven. The theme music was composed by sound designer Cesar Davila-Irizarry and musician Charlie Clouser. The cinematography was done by Juan Ruiz Anchía and the editing by Gabriel J. Diaz.
For the first season, the sequence is set in the Harmons' basement and includes images of postmortem young children, fetuses in jars, skulls, a christening dress, a nurse's uniform, and a figure holding a pair of bloody hedge clippers. A photo of alleged axe murderer Lizzie Borden is shown.
The second season's opening sequence is done by the same creative team. "We are shooting a new title sequence with the same team that did last year's," series creator Ryan Murphy said. "The song may stay... not sure." The music was kept, and the new title sequence was set around the Asylum, utilising shots of inmates raving and surgeons operating on patients with bandages obscuring their faces. Elements include a young girl walking backwards on her hands and feet up a staircase and a shot of the Virgin Mary's smile changing from one of benevolence to one of spite.
The third season's opening sequence keeps the same music, and this sequence is the first one to be filmed primarily outside and not in an enclosed location. Shots include figures wearing black robes and capirotes, a bony-skeleton creature with wings and shots of dead goats, the Minotaur from the season also appears. For the first time, there are actual backgrounds that appear with the actor names instead of an all-black background, some of these images include witches hanging and Santa Muerte. Other elements include a black man with piercing eyes and a disturbing smile as well as voodoo dolls. The final shot continues after the figures in black capirotes seize one of their own who is later seen burning at a stake where young, dress-clad witches dance around.
The fourth season's opening sequence changed things up, the series theme music remains intact albeit with an added carnival-like soundscape. The sequence is composed of both CGI and stop-motion animation and features strange characters such as a skeleton chimera of a human being and an elephant riding a bicycle, a skeleton of what appears to be a single head but two bodies, a devil-like creature, a boy in a wheel chair with deformed legs, a character with severe syndactyly of the hands and feet, a clown who can twist his head around, a woman with a third leg where her genitalia should be, and a demonic cymbal-banging monkey toy. There are also shots of side show attractions like the Human Blockhead, knife throwing and sword swallowing. The main recurring element features a balloon twister popping balloons with a knife.
The fifth season's opening sequence also was very different from previous seasons', taking a more biblical approach. The font, while remaining the same as the first four seasons, glow in red against a hotel wallpaper. The Ten Commandments are also shown throughout the video. The intro returns to live-action like the first three seasons. Visuals include many people scrubbing blood all over the walls and the floor, strange things shown through peepholes, people being victims to the hotel, little kids running around the hotel, as well as many different creatures.
The sixth season featured no title sequence or opening credits, instead opting for a simple title card which read "American Horror Story", while the series theme music plays over the end credits.
The title sequence for all seasons of the show use a typeface that very closely resembles a style for which Scottish designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh was known.
As part of the promotion for the series, FX launched a "House Call" campaign, in which viewers at home could sign up and come face-to-face with a character from the series. Prior to the series premiere, FX released several clues to shine light on the series. They were offered on the show's official YouTube channel. Ten clues were released. In September 2011, FX launched a website which allows visitors to tour the Murder House throughout the decades and look for clues.
In August 2012, the first promo for the second season was released on the American Horror Story Facebook page entitled "Special Delivery", in which a nun carries a couple of buckets filled with body parts through a field. As a church bell rings, the nun empties one bucket's bloody contents, leaving the empty bucket behind, and resumes her trek. Over 20 subsequent teasers were released. Four photos were also released on EW.com. Two televised teasers, titled "Meet the Residents", were released on August 31, 2012. They feature the patients and some staff (such as Dr. Thredson, played by Zachary Quinto, and Sister Mary Eunice, played by Lily Rabe) lying in twin beds and dealing with their individual issues as the heads of the asylum (Jessica Lange, Joseph Fiennes and James Cromwell) look on. The song "Que Sera, Sera", mixed with the show's theme music, plays.
On August 16, 2016, FX announced a deal had been struck to feature an American Horror Story exhibit at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando for their Halloween Horror Nights. The maze will feature sets and themes from Murder House, Freak Show, and Hotel. Universal said of the experience, "Twisted scenes from Murder House will unleash the evil spirits that possess the Harmon estate, spiraling guests through decades of the tortured dead who previously resided there. In ‘Freak Show,’ guests will join a troupe of biological misfits in a sinister sideshow where they’ll be stalked by the murderous and deformed Twisty the Clown. Finally, guests will succumb to the warped desires of The Countess after checking in to the haunted Hotel Cortez, conceived from the beginning as a torture chamber for its customers."
The series premiered on October 5, 2011, and is broadcast on the cable television channel FX in the United States. In November 2011, it premiered internationally on the respective countries' Fox International Channels. The first season premiered on October 5, 2011, and concluded on December 21, 2011. The second season premiered on October 17, 2012, and concluded on January 23, 2013. The third season premiered on October 9, 2013, and concluded on January 29, 2014. The fourth season premiered on October 8, 2014, and concluded on January 21, 2015. The fifth season premiered on October 7, 2015, and concluded on January 13, 2016. The latter three seasons premiered on the same day and same time with the American broadcasts on FX in Canada, though the first season followed a slightly different schedule as that network launched on October 31, 2011. The series is aired in India on STAR World Premiere HD shortly after its U.S. airing. Along with it, it airs on FX India on standard definition and Fox in UK and Ireland in October 2011.
The first season of American Horror Story received mixed to positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 76% of 42 critics gave the first season a positive review. The site's consensus stated: "Convoluted yet effective, American Horror Story is strange, gory, and twisted enough to keep viewers hooked." The first season scored 62 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 30 reviews. Ken Tucker from Entertainment Weekly awarded the pilot episode a B+, stating: "AHS is pretty much all scare, all the time: a whole lotta screams, sex, jolts, mashed faces, psychotic behavior, and dead babies." Hank Stuever from The Washington Post said in his review that: "Overdoing things is one of Murphy's trademark flaws, but this show has a captivating style and giddy gross-outs." Not all reviews were favorable: Alan Sepinwall of HitFix gave the series a D−, saying: "It is so far over the top that the top is a microscopic speck in its rearview mirror, and so full of strange sounds, sights and characters that you likely won't forget it – even though many of you will wish you could." Sepinwall would later go on to call it one of the worst TV shows of 2011. The Los Angeles Times' Mary McNamara gave it a mixed review, stating that it "collapses into camp... upon more than one occasion" but also noting that it is "hard to look away."
The second season, American Horror Story: Asylum, received mostly positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 77% of 43 critics gave the season a positive review. The site's consensus is: "American Horror Story: Asylum crosses boundaries to shock and scare with sexy subplots and some innovative takes on current social issues." It scored 65 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 23 reviews. James Poniewozik from Time stated: "AHS: Asylum feels like a more focused, if equally frenetic, screamfest. It's also gorgeously realized, with a vision of its '60s institution setting so detailed you can smell the stale air and incense." Maureen Ryan of The Huffington Post said: "It's to the credit of Asylum's writers, directors and cast that the emotional pain of the characters often feels as real as their uncertainty and terror." Verne Gay from Newsday gave the season a C grade, stating it "has some good special effects, just not much of a story to hang them on." Linda Stasi of the New York Post thought the season was "over the top," adding: "I need to enter [an asylum] myself after two hours of this craziness."
The third season, American Horror Story: Coven, received positive reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 81% of 36 critics have given the show a positive review. The site's consensus reads: "A noteworthy ensemble cast combined with creepy storytelling and campy, outrageous thrills make American Horror Story: Coven a potently structured fright-fest." It scored 71 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 24 reviews, the highest score for the show to date. Not all reviews were positive, however, with criticism focused mainly in regards to the progression of both the story and certain character arcs in the second half of the season. The A.V. Club gave this season the low rating of a D+, with critic Todd Van DerWerff remarking: "It lurched drunkenly from idea to idea, never settling on one long enough to build anything of worth."
The fourth season, American Horror Story: Freak Show, received mostly positive reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 79% of 32 critics have given the season a positive review. The site's consensus is: "Though it may turn off new viewers unaccustomed to its unabashed weirdness, Freak Show still brings the thrills, thanks to its reliably stylish presentation and game cast." It scored 69 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 19 "generally favorable" reviews.
The fifth season, American Horror Story: Hotel, received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes reports that 64% of 41 critics have given the season a positive review. The site's consensus is: "Favoring garish style over effective storytelling, the fifth American Horror Story strands a talented cast at Ryan Murphy's Hotel." Fan reception on the same website was also mixed, at 58% of viewers giving the show a favorable review. Hotel scored a 60 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 24 "mixed or average" reviews.
The sixth season, American Horror Story: Roanoke, received positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes reports that 79% of 13 critics have given the season a positive review. The site's consensus is: "American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare takes a surprising turn away from prior AHS formats, revisiting the deliberate pace of earlier seasons on a spookier, smaller scale, even if the true-crime format feels overdone." It scored a 72 on Metacritic based on six reviews.
The pilot episode of American Horror Story was watched by 3.2 million viewers and averaged a 1.6 rating in the 18–49 years adult demographic, the most sought after by advertisers. These were the best numbers FX had ever received for a series premiere. The episode was seen by 3.2 million total viewers in 59 countries. Ratings increased as the season progressed, with the season finale being watched by 3.22 million viewers and receiving a 1.7 ratings share in the 18–49 years adult demographic. The series premiere aired in November 2011 across Europe and Latin America on Fox International Channels, and ranked as first or second most watched telecast in its timeslot among all paid television in most metered markets. "Numbers so strong, it’s scary. American Horror Story has brought droves of new viewers to a killer global lineup," said Hernan Lopez, the president of Fox International Channels.
The second season's premiere gained a 2.2 18–49 ratings share and gathered 3.85 million viewers, marking the highest numbers for the series. By the season's sixth episode, the numbers dropped to a series-low 0.9 18–49 ratings share and 1.89 million viewers, however, they rebounded to above two million viewers for the subsequent episodes, and reached 2.29 million viewers for the season's finale. The premiere of the fifth season of the series became the second most-watched telecast in the network's history, only behind the premiere episode of the previous season, which was watched by 6.13 million viewers. The show was subsequently renewed for another season; John Landgraf, the CEO of the network, commented on the show's success by saying that American Horror Story, the network's highest rated series, "has unquestionably joined the ranks of television's landmark series." In 2016, a New York Times study of the 50 TV shows with the most Facebook Likes found that "unlike a lot of shows about the supernatural", American Horror Story was "more popular in cities, but also throughout parts of the Southwest".
American Horror Story has won 59 of its 230 award nominations. The franchise has garnered 28 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, with Jessica Lange winning for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie and for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie, James Cromwell winning for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie, and Kathy Bates winning for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie. It received an additional 50 Creative Arts Emmy Award nominations, winning eleven times, including Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries or a Movie, Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special, Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special, and Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie or a Special. It has received nine Golden Globe Award nominations, with Lange winning for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film, and Lady Gaga winning for Best Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film. The series has also received three Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, with Lange winning for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series. Additional accolades include eighteen Critics' Choice Television Awards nominations, with four wins, the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Miniseries, four Costume Designers Guild Awards nominations, winning three times, eight wins out of ten nominations at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards, five People's Choice Awards nominations, winning once, and eleven Satellite Awards nomination, with three wins.