THE SHOW "American Horror Story: Coven"
WHEN | WHERE Wednesday night at 10 on FX
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Marie Delphine LaLaurie was born in New Orleans in 1775, and was a serial killer who tortured and murdered her slaves. Marie Laveau, born in 1794, was the city's most famous practitioner of voodoo. Whether these two knew each other in real life is immaterial -- they do now, in the third season of "American Horror Story," about a coven of witches in the Big Easy.
THE PLOT: Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga, from the first season) is sent off to a Hogwarts-type school for witches in New Orleans called Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies after it was discovered that she has special powers. It's a place with big secrets and a small student body: Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) and Nan (Jamie Brewer), from "AHS'" first season. The academy is overseen by another witch, Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson), who will be forced to make some adjustments when Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), arrives.
What do they have to do with LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) and Laveau (Angela Bassett)? That's what we're all about to find out.
MY SAY There's no fully grasping the group swoon that falls over the Hollywood awards community when it comes to "AHS" -- a total of 67 nominations for the first two seasons alone. You'd almost think Ryan Murphy (and co-creator Brad Falchuk) have -- like their coven -- serious magical powers. They do, with casting, which may be the secret ingredient to this special potion. Along with Lange, Bates and Bassett, other A-listers to arrive later this season include Patti LuPone, Frances Conroy and Christine Ebersole. That's a lot of talent for half a dozen series, let alone one, so attention must -- and will -- be paid here.
But does the opener hint at a future greatness to match this cast? Not really. As usual, there's plenty of sizzle, an arresting visual or two, and a well-spent special-effects budget. Lange's character is yet another variation on her earlier ones for "AHS": A beautiful, exotic, tormented, mysterious, outsized whack job. Filmed in New Orleans, "Coven" wants to soak up some atmosphere, bowdlerize some local history and otherwise creep out viewers. At least on these three points, this season should easily score.
BOTTOM LINE So far, so creepy