At the Television Critics Association annual press tour today, FX network CEO John Landgraf threw a little gauntlet down for fans of American Horror Story. You know those promos we’ve been seeing for the next season of AHS? The ones with people under stairs and a head being stapled and the satanic baby mobile above the crib? It turns out those were pulled from a basket of lies — well, most of them were. "There are many more trailers than you've actually seen for hypothetical seasons of American Horror Story — different genres, different places," Landgraf told the audience. "One of them is accurate; the others are all misdirects." Challenge accepted, Landgraf! So far we’ve seen six little teasers cut in frantic, bite-sized Horror Story fashion. But which one of these is truly tipping us off to the season-six theme? Let’s investigate each one to find out.
First, let's remember: Set photos leaked to TMZ last week laid out a pretty convincing-looking homestead, and the tipster that turned over the pictures said cast members had been coming to work in "Pilgrim-era clothing." More importantly, one of those photos showed the word "CROATOAN" carved into a tree, which references a group of colonists who mysteriously vanished from Roanoke Island off the coast of North Carolina around 1590. This is pretty concrete evidence of a very specific timeline and location for season six, so now we have have a choice: Should we assume that this was a standard TMZ tip-off and that is indeed the real set for AHS? Or do we need to consider the possibility that FX is so amped up on secrecy that it built a whole fake set and had the actors come to work in period-appropriate costumes, just to bait any potential moles into leaking bad intel? To avoid exhaustion, we're going to go with the first option and say that TMZ photos are real, and we are indeed looking at AHS: Lost Colony.
With all that in place, let's consider the likelihood of the "Post Op" teaser being the real one. Assuming that our timeline is 1590, this promo is likely bunk. Metal paper fasteners, the precursor to staples, didn't show up until around 1850 or 1860, and the surgical stapler wasn't invented until 1908. Odds of this one being real: Very Low.
The "Milli Crossing" promo skates by on the fact that it's utterly vague. There are millipedes in North America, so it's possible that they could live on an island off the Carolinas. But this would be such a major cop-out if it was the real thing, since it teases nothing at all. We're not buying it. Murphy isn't as boring as this, so we are putting the likelihood of this clip's veracity at Low.
The "Lullaby" teaser has some real promise. Assuming our characters live on a farm, which the set photos suggest, the tools being hung above the crib would be appropriate for the context. Also, Ryan Murphy does like to throw reproductive abominations into AHS, and a perverted relationship between mother and child is another one of his go-tos. It's also got elements of the demonic blending in with the banality of everyday life, a very Murphy-style story tease. The likelihood of "Lullaby" being our huckleberry is Very High.
Now on to "Descent." These metal stairs look like you could find them in any industrial basement in the present day, and there's no way they existed on Roanoke Island in 1590. The odds of this teaser being real are Very Low.
"What's Cooking" shows promise right up until you hear the chainsaw buzzing as the woman screams. The chain handsaw didn't even appear until the late 1700s, and it wasn't until 140 years later that Andreas Stihl patented electric- and gas-powered models. Also, the amber waves of grain are a little hard to believe for a barrier island off the coast of what became North Carolina. The likelihood of this promo being our real one is Very Low.
"Sunset Stroll" also gives very little away, but but it feels more on-message than "Milli Crossing": There's that the old-timey film-reel vibe, and the fact that everything seems normal until you see the shining evil eyes of the approaching family. (That's another Murphy signature: Everything looks peachy keen until it is most definitely not.) Even though our characters here are only in silhouette, their garments still seem too modern to be appropriate for 1590. The man's jacket and hat look more like he's walking around town with Andy Griffith than his Elizabethan-era wife and child. In all, we're going to put the likelihood of this teaser being real at Moderate, pending further research into the fashions of late-16th-century colonists.
Right now we're going with "Lullaby." Place wagers among friends and prepare to revel in telling them how wrong they were when American Horror Story season six debuts on September 14. We're on to you now, Landgraf. So bring on the additional teasers.