What 'American Horror Story' Can Teach the New Series 'Salem'
Damn y'all, the Salem witch trials are so hot right now. Not only are their descendants on TV already with American Horror Story: Coven, but those Salem witches are getting two new shows: Jenji Kohan's as-yet-untitled Salem witch drama on HBO, and Salem , WGN's first original program that also follows the original Salem witches. The show was actually originally sold to FX as Malice until American Horror Story decided to go all witch-themed, so it got booted over to WGN.
Unlike AHS, Salem goes all the way back to the 17th century to follow the supernatural origins of the Salem witch trials and focuses on an epic romance during this tumultuous period in history. This show's head witch in charge is Mary Sibley, the wife of the old, sickly and wealthy town Selectman. She's described as "beautiful, ruthless but vulnerable" — sound familiar? The show just released its first promo today, and while it doesn't reveal too much about the show, it does let us know that if you're a lady in Salem, it's pretty much guaranteed that "she be a witch."
So what can these Salem witches learn from the current reigning witches on television? Well, there's the good, the bad, and of course, the inherently evil...
Don't: Portray Sex as a Weapon
Okay, guys, we know you saw Teeth, and yes, it's fun to flip the script on traditional portrayals of women's sexuality and give them the power over men (specifically, the power to kill men). But there are already a lot of people who are all too willing to tell young women that their sexuality is dangerous and they should keep it to themselves. Having Taissa Farmiga play The Vagina Killer doesn't exactly help the women watching your show become more comfortable with their sexuality. So yes, Salem, you can have your crazy leaders shout about beautiful women "tempting the good people of Salem to commit sins of the flesh," just don't let your audience believe that these women are dangerous temptresses, too.
Do: Bring Back the LBD
All it took was Fiona walking down the street in black with her coven to match to make me want to burn my whole wardrobe and go entirely goth-chic. American Horror Story does coven fashion like nobody else, and the show has already inspired major wardrobe envy. After all, if you're going to do a show about witches, you need to embrace the darkness, and that includes the wardrobe.
Don't: Go Crazy with the Supernatural
This essentially means "don't be Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk." The signature of a Murphy-Falchuk show is throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks, and that extends to the AHS universe: Zombie threesomes! Sexy minotaurs! Zombie invasions! Witches having sex with saxophone-playing ghosts! Enemas from overly religious moms! Sometimes it works, and sometimes it really, really, doesn't, and that's part of the show's charm. But even on that show, it gets pretty grating, so it's definitely not something that Salem should try to reproduce. Moral of the story? If your show is about witches, make it about witches.
Do: Have a Killer Head Witch in Charge
Look, Salem, we see what you're trying to do here. It's a good idea to have a ruthless ringleader, but you need to take some serious notes from American Horror Story. If you want to find the best head witch in charge, look no further than Fiona. She can slash a witch's throat, frame another in her coven for the act, and still make you feel sympathy for her. Of course, much more of this has to do with the consistently fabulous Jessica Lange than it has to do with the writing, so you'll need to keep an eye on her if you want Salem to be the reigning Supreme — otherwise, you can bow down, witches.