Why Is Jessica Lange Coming Back for ‘American Horror Story’ Season 3?

Confession: I kicked American Horror Story off my DVR queue last night. Since my recorder only allows me to tape two shows at once, I had to choose between AHS, Nashville, and Top Chef — and it was with few reservations that I gave Ryan Murphy’s asylum of horrors the boot. While I enjoyed last season’s salacious haunted house storyline despite its frequent ridiculousness, and looked forward to its Asylum reinvention, I just can’t get on board with Season 2. Whereas the plot and characters were vaguely compelling in the show’s first incarnation, this year just seems like an excuse to watch gory things happen to people who may or may not be mentally ill while Jessica Lange practices her Boston accent. Nothing about each episode makes me want to watch the next one. And when poor Chloë Sevigny’s character started getting cut up, the ironic retro misogyny that’s afflicted both seasons of AHS got to be a bit much.

With all that in mind, I’m not surprised that American Horror Story has been renewed for a third season. It’s a popular show by cable standards, with viewership hovering around three million a week. (By contrast, FX’s more prestigious Louie is lucky to break a million.) But what I can’t get my mind around is why Jessica Lange has already been confirmed to follow it to a new place and time for Season 3. She’s one of our greatest living actresses, and she’s already camped it up in two different roles (the first one far more compelling than the second) for AHS. Even if the series has primarily become a showcase for Lange’s extreme performances, it’s a shame to see her renew her commitment when the material she’s given is so mediocre. Does she not see that AHS is going south fast, or are there really that few good parts available to actresses over 60?