The Remote: ‘American Horror Story: Coven’ casts a delectably campy spell

Ryan Pait

It’s hard to strike a good balance between drama and comedy in TV.

A lot of shows struggle with creating “dramedy” — “Glee” is a perfect example.

It’s a show that deals with heady and heavy themes, but it also takes them too lightly sometimes.

“Glee” is headed by Ryan Murphy, who is coincidentally one of the brains behind “American Horror Story,” FX’s spooky anthology series.

The first season of “American Horror Story” struck a great balance between hijinks and terror.

Subtitled “Murder House,” the season featured an unassuming family that moved into a very haunted house.

It never took itself too seriously, but it was seriously fun to watch.

The second season, subtitled “Asylum,” rarely had spots of lightheartedness. It traded the campy edge of the first season for nearly perpetual doom and gloom.

It was a good season, but one with little levity.

The third season, which premiered last Wednesday, returns to the first season’s campier roots.

And boy, oh, boy is it fun.

The new season, appropriately subtitled “Coven,” focuses on a special school in New Orleans for young witches.

Before you start making Hogwarts jokes, consider this: the first scene at the school almost features a human sacrifice.

That crap doesn’t fly at Hogwarts.

If the season premiere proves anything, it’s that “American Horror Story” has returned to its delectably campy heart.

There are cracks about Mary Todd Lincoln and sweaty nether regions, but there are also scenes of true terror and heinous violence.

It’s a tough balancing act, but “Coven” nails it.

The show’s supreme power lies in its repertory cast, which features fantastic players like Frances Conroy, Sarah Paulson and the impeccable Jessica Lange.

Lange has stolen the show every season and seems destined to do it once again with her role as Fiona Goode in “Coven.”

There are also some notable new faces. Namely, Academy Award nominees Angela Bassett and Gabourey Sidibe and Academy Award-winner Kathy Bates.

Counting Lange, that makes four Academy Award nominees or winners on one show. It’s fantastic.

It’s also incredibly refreshing to see a show that revolves so centrally around women — women that are vastly different from one another in form, feeling and motivation.

They’re also played by all-around superlative performers, meaning that they’re infinitely mesmerizing to watch.

The show’s visual form has never been better as well. The premiere features lush direction by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon that’s gorgeous to look at.

Compared to the dark and dreary cinematography of “Asylum,” “Coven” seems almost like a fever dream.

The premiere also contains a great twist at the end.

Murphy may have trouble balancing comedy and drama with “Glee,” but he’s got a handle on it with “Coven.”

Based on the premiere and season preview, it could be shaping up to be the show’s best season.

“American Horror Story” has done it again.

For the third year in a row now, I’m under its spell.