American Gothic is not quite the show you expect.
Corinne Brinkerhoff isn’t your typical show-runner, either. One thing probably has a lot to do with the other. Shows tend to be a reflection of the people who create them. And, so far, that only seems to be a good, no, a great thing for CBS’s new summer murder-mystery.
What’s it about seems like a hard question to answer. We’ve read the description, of course, and know that it centers on the Hawthornes, a prominent Boston family that is attempting to both distance themselves and, in a way, possibly redefine themselves in the wake of a unsettling discovery that seems to point out to their recently deceased patriarch as the perpetrator of a series of murders, spanning decades.
And, as if that weren’t enough, the family also had to deal with the mounting suspicion that one of them may have been his accomplice.
Not what you expected at all, is it?
Brinkerhoff isn’t either. She’s nothing but smiles as she talks about picking Boston as a setting because she “knew it personally” and “it’s always easier to write if I know the place” and even jokes about there being many notorious serial killers in that part of the world. You can tell she’s passionate about this show, though, just as you can tell that there’s a larger plan at play here.
Even if, for this particular family, it’s only meant to last thirteen episodes.
The idea, according to Brinkerhoff was to “tell a compelling, satisfying story in thirteen episodes, as opposed to artificially extending it,” which makes sense, since the shows she mentions as big influences: Fargo, Orange is the New Black and True Detective are all planed like this. In a way, it’s like “a compelling summer novel broken into thirteen chapters”
And we all love our summer reads, don’t we?
She’s quick to point out; however, that this doesn’t necessarily mean the show will end here. There are “six possible ideas for future seasons” all of them “within the same them of a complicated family, with a mystery and big twist in the middle,” which means we might have American Gothic for a while.
For someone serving as a show-runner for the first time, Corinne Brinkerhoff seems very in control of what she’s doing and saying, even when she talks about discovering “how little time you actually spend in the writer’s room and writing” in this new role. She clearly still feels more comfortable there, as a writer, but that doesn’t mean the role of show-runner is too big for her.
Not a chance.
Even if she has to spend more time than she’d like doing “logistical things that have little to do with creativity”
In a way, though, that’s the sacrifice she has to make to get this idea onto the TV screen, and though she admits to “missing the writer’s room,” she doesn’t yearn to go back.
She’s got a show to run.
One about “nature versus nurture” and the complicated moral complexities of being part of a family like the Hawthornes. “Moral relativism,” is the term she used, and it fits perfectly with the current climate, not only of the world, but of television. We live in an era of relatable bad guys, after all.
American Gothic seems just like the show for this era.
Especially because there’s a “dark levity” to it that, according to the show-runner, is a “massive part of the tone of the show,” and that goes back to her first job as a writer on Boston Legal. There, she learned about taking serious material and tempering it with comedy, and it doesn’t look like Corinne Brinkerhoff has looked back ever since.
Which is good – otherwise we wouldn’t have this show.
But whether you like gallows humor, drama, or just your regular old murder mystery, American Gothic has a little for everyone. Time will tell if it has enough to interest beyond the surprisingly enticing premise, but for now, we’re going to give Corinne Brinkerhoff the benefit of the doubt. And we’re going to try her show. It’s summer, after all. Try to find our new obsession!
American Gothic premieres Wednesday June 22 at 10/9c on CBS.