Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates: The American Freak Show

Erika Ervin,  Jyoti Amge,  Evan Peters and Mat Fraser in American Horror Story: Freak Show
Ervin, Amge, Peters and Fraser in American Horror Story: Freak Show

Let’s talk about American Horror Story: Freak Show. I’ve stayed away from it since I really don’t like scary stuff. Friday the 13th? Never. Halloween? Never. Night of the Living Dead? OK, that one I saw at the 110 Drive-In on Long Island and a 60-foot zombie creeped me out forever. But Freak Show? Ever since Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks I’ve had this fascination. Maybe it’s just a Coney Island thing, but this series of American Horror Story is, well, freaky.

Freak Show begins with John Carroll Lynch as Twisty the Clown, a disfigured, feeble-minded ex-clown seeking revenge on all those who have made fun of him. His reign of terror brings suspicion onto the members of the freak show, as the townspeople attempt to run them out of town. Enter Finn Wittrock as Dandy Mott, a pampered rich boy who loves to kill when he doesn’t get his way; Dandy’s mother Gloria, played to snobby perfection by Frances Conroy; Patti LaBelle (yup!) as their housekeeper, Dora; and Gabourey Sidibe as Dora’s daughter, Regina. When Dandy receives Twisty as a birthday gift from Mummy, the fun and slashing begins.

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Seeing double with Sarah Paulson as Bette and Dot
Seeing double: Sarah Paulson

But leading the cast as well is Jessica Lange as Elsa Mars, a David Bowie-singing wannabe star who lost her legs in a botched snuff film. Elsa runs the carny, and producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (Glee) have assembled an estimable group of both able-bodied and disabled actors to play the sideshow family. Their leader Evan Peters’ Jimmy Darling, who is known as “Lobster Boy”; his mother Ethel, played by Kathy Bates, is a bearded lady as well as Elsa’s confidant and only friend.

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Then there’s the astounding Angela Bassett as Desiree Dupree, a hermaphrodite with three — count ’em, three — breasts; Michael Chiklis as strongman Dell Toledo, Desiree’s partner and Jimmy’s father; Emma Roberts as faux fortune teller Maggie Esmerelda; Indian actress and the smallest woman in the world, Jyoti Amge, as Ma Petite; Rose Siggins as Legless Suzi; transgendered actress Erika Ervin as Amazon Sue; and comedian Naomi Grossman as Pepper.

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Is that enough? Nope — the real breakouts of this series are Sarah Paulson as conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler, each looking for her own individuality; British actor Mat Fraser as Paul, the Illustrated Seal, who falls in love with “normal” girl Penny (Grace Gummer), whose possessive father has tattooed her body and forked her tongue for loving Paul; and Denis O’Hare as smarmy con-man Stanley, who reignites the stars in Elsa’s eyes — precipitating a bloodbath as she removes anyone who stands in her way of stardom.

Clown to the left of them, bodies to the right: you’ll be stuck in the middle of Freak Show before you know it — with heads flying and blood spurting.

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Christopher Walken and Christian Borle as Hook and Smee
Walken, Borle as Hook and Smee

After last years horrific The Sound of Music, what can I say about NBC’s live Peter Pan? It was fabulous! OK, I cried buckets at the end. Maybe it was just remembering my childhood — seeing Mary Martin live on the old black-and-white tube almost 60 years ago. Allison Williams, in great voice, was wonderful as Peter, a role that is so hard to own. And Kelli O’Hara and Christian Borle did not disappoint. A pleasant surprise in a small role was Minnie Driver as the older Wendy, who sends her own daughter off with Peter. But the best, could-he-be-any-gayer? performance was Christopher Walken’s. He’s like the tap-dancing, foppy love child of Bette Davis and Johnny Depp. Kudos all around to the company — and to the tens of composer and lyricists (including Amanda Green, whose late father Adolph, with partner Betty Comden, wrote the lyrics to the haunting Never Never Land) for giving us a musical we’ll always cherish.

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This Week on the Tube…
The end of Sons of Anarchy is going out with a big, ginormous bang. With almost nobody left to kill, it’ll be interesting to see how Kurt Sutter wraps this up.

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Best TV Moment of the Week…
First there was no Luke, then there was Fluke and Luke and now there’s Fluke, Fluke and Luke. I know we missed Anthony Geary and I guess three Lukes are better than none, but seriously, General Hospital?

And don’t get me started…
The Bill Cosby body count is rising, yet Whoopi Goldberg and singer Jill Scott are still defending him. Hey, wake up and smell the roofies, girls: abuse is abuse and you need to get with the program. Now Gloria Allred is on the case and it’s the beginning of the end of Cosby’s world.

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The TV Junkie was preceded in her family by a large mahogany cabinet that housed a small screen with a large speaker below. Thus began her love affair with the older sibling in the living room. Theirs was a tenuous relationship, prone to mishaps (forgetting to use the special "screen" for Winky Dink), joyous events (Julie & Carol at Carnegie Hall), sad moments (Clarabelle saying goodbye to the Peanut Gallery) and a wide range of emotions (the funeral of John F. Kennedy and the Inauguration of Barack Obama). From Captain Video to Star Trek to Lost; from A Brighter Day to The Edge of Night to One Life to Live; from Peyton Place to Dynasty to Desperate Housewives; there has never been a greater love, than that of the TVJ and the best friend a girl could ever have. Like "The TV Junkie" on Facebook and follow her on Twitter: @thetvjunkiepml.