ELEVEN has been pitching itself as a destination for spooky US dramas and the latest, American Gothic, debuts next week (not to be confused with another of the same title by Shaun Cassidy in 1995).
Essentially it centres around the question: what if someone in your family was a serial killer?
The Hawthornes are a wealthy Boston family, comprising retired concrete magnate Mitch (Jamey Sheridan) and his wife Madeline (Virginia Madsen) and their array of adult offspring: Alison (Juliet Rylance) who is running as Boston mayor, school-teacher Tessa (Megan Ketch) who is married to detective Brady (Elliot Ross), and cartoonist son Cam (Justin Chatwin). A fourth sibling and estranged son Garrett (Antony Starr) also makes a surprise return.
TV’s newest dysfunctional family is thrown a curve ball when Tessa and Cam discover a cardboard box in a backroom with a row of small bells -which also just happen to be the calling card of an unsolved serial killer (a case also being pursued by son-in-law Brady).
Episode One “Arrangement in Grey and Black” also establishes Cam’s very peculiar young son Jack (Gabriel Bateman), who is obsessed with anatomy and vivisection. As you do.
When patriarch Mitch is hospitalised, wayward son Garrett turns up, sporting a bushy beard and harbouring secrets.
“You said you’d never come back,” his sister reminds him.
“I did,” he answers glumly.
So with Dad laying in a coma, weird brother returned, and the discovery of serial-killer bells, it’s Tessa and Cam who become whodunnit sleuths trying to get to the bottom of a family secret. But who do you tell, who do you trust, when you have 13 episodes to fill?
Things move quite swiftly in the opening episode, if somewhat unevenly. The family estate serves as a kind of Cluedo backdrop, with shades of Dirty, Sexy Money.
Amongst the cast Antony Starr gives away little in the more-interesting role of the dark son, but it’s Virginia Madsen who may ultimately prove to have the most fun in a campy, Kathleen-Turner-kinda-way (no that’s not a spoiler, this is setting up lots of twists and turns).
Sure, it doesn’t match the boldness or performances of American Horror Story and I’m also yet to be convinced the title fits the final product.
But the cast commit to this screwy premise quite well so if the plot can keep delivering then this may yet prove to be spooky fun.
American Gothic premieres 8:30pm Sunday on ELEVEN.