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Over-the-top 'American Horror Story' wraps 1st season

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "American Horror Story" ends its first season at 10 p.m. Wednesday on FX. The ghostly horror tale was created by Ryan Murphy, best known for "Glee," but also the man behind the twisted plastic surgery drama "Nip/Tuck."

There were a few ads giving the premise of this heavily hyped show about a troubled family who moves into an even more troubled house, but most of the promos, dubbed clues, focused on oddity, not information. They flashed creepy images -- prominent among them a man in a bondage suit -- set to spooky music, chiefly Hannah Peel's eerie cover of "Tainted Love." (This tactic is used to great effect in the opening credits, as well).

Thus, I knew it was going to be bizarre. I also know Murphy's shows tend to go off the rails, so when "AHS" debuted in October, I was curious, if not overly enthusiastic, about it.

The pilot was more creepy for the sake of being creepy than for the sake of creating a strong story. (Note I said creepy, not scary, which it isn't at all, although some people bafflingly think it is.) From there, it got progressively odder.

As the weirdness built, two camps emerged among my friends who watch the show: those who think it's trippy and brilliant, and the rest of us, who are spellbound by its over-the-top insanity (tackled gamely by its talented cast) and watch mainly to see how each episode's ridiculousness will top the last.

I can't say much about the story without spoiling major plot points for anyone who isn't caught up with or might want to watch the show, but here are a few things that have come up so far: a hefty consumption of raw animal brains, ghosts who don't know they're dead, an ultrasound so terrifying it drove the technician to quit her job and 15 deaths in the house's past, most of which appear never to have been investigated.

Oh, and the Black Dahlia. Yeah, it turns out a dentist who lived in the house accidentally killed her with laughing gas when he put her under to rape her.

Perhaps next season -- and there definitely will be one -- Jimmy Hoffa's body will be found beneath the house or we'll meet the Zodiac Killer, who's giving L.A. a shot before heading up to the Bay Area. Season 2 likely will start in the fall again, so that gives Murphy and Co. a lot of time to dream up some new craziness.

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Series premieres: "Pricing the Priceless," 8 p.m. today, National Geographic (putting a cash value on monuments); "Impractical Jokers," 10 p.m. today, TruTV (hidden camera pranks); "Funny or Die's Billy on the Street," 9 p.m. Sunday, Fuse (pop culture trivia); "Geek Love," 9 p.m. Sunday, TLC (nerd speed dating); "Who's Still Standing?" 8 p.m. Monday, NBC (game show).

Season finales: "Burn Notice," 10 p.m. today, USA; "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," 10 p.m. today, FX; "Survivor," 8 p.m. Sunday, CBS; "Allen Gregory," 8:30 p.m. Sunday and "Terra Nova," 8 p.m. Monday, Fox (both could be series finales); "The X Factor," 8 p.m. Wednesday, Fox (final performances); "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist," 9 p.m. Wednesday, Bravo.

Christmas specials: "Christmas in Washington," 8 p.m. Friday, TNT (Cee Lo Green, Justin Bieber and more); "Live from Lincoln Center: George Balanchine's The Nutcracker," 9 p.m. Saturday, PBS2; "Jingle Ball 2011," 7 p.m. Sunday, Fuse (Kelly Clarkson, Foster the People and Lady Gaga); "Christmas at St. Olaf," 9 p.m. Tuesday, PBS.

Christmas cartoons: "A Charlie Brown Christmas," 8 p.m. today, ABC; "Ice Age: Mammoth Christmas," 9 p.m. Friday, Fox; "Frosty the Snowman," 8 p.m., "Frosty Returns," 8:30 p.m. and "The Story of Santa Claus," 9 p.m. Saturday, CBS; "Kung Fu Panda Holiday," 8 p.m. and "A Chipmunk Christmas," 8:30 p.m. Monday, ABC.

Specials: "The Year with Katie Couric," 9 p.m. today, ABC; "Buddy Holly: Listen to Me," (tribute) 9 p.m. and "Great Performances: The Little Mermaid From the San Francisco Ballet," 10:30 p.m. Friday, PBS; "VH1 Divas Celebrate Soul," 9 p.m. Monday, VH1 (Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson and more); "A Home for the Holidays with Martina McBride," 8 p.m. Wednesday, CBS (adoption awareness concert).

Reach Amy Robinson at flipside@wvgazette.com.


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