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American Gothic - 1995-1996
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Here are the relevant facts about the plot of "American Gothic," originally aired on TV from 1995-1996, giving you just enough information to dive into the series, to create a hint of intrigue but not so much as to spoil any part of the story.
This TV series (in my opinion) ranks up there with probably the top ten weirdest shows ever broadcast. Unfortunately, the series didn't last very long. My TV-watching instincts tell me the show could have gone one more full season. In fact, I think it needed one more season to make the conclusion feel more satisfactory.
The show was a cut above for a variety of reasons. Though it was a series, each episode did not seem to repeat itself or piggy-back on a prior show. The program's continuity was good but hindered by the network putting it on the shelf for various "specials" and by moving the airing time around. This is the best way to lose an audience. As far as I could tell, the network didn't give a darn about the success or failure of the series.
The premise of the series was (fairly) straight forward, although very odd. What you, as the viewer, learns early on is that Sheriff Lucas Buck is apparently the father of the young boy, Caleb Temple. Caleb has a sister, Merlyn Temple. Caleb is certainly the unclaimed son of Lucas, as Lucas has big plans for Caleb and watches over him with a close eye. Merlyn apparently has no relationship with Lucas, but is very protective of Caleb (even beyond the grave).
A fire consumes the Temple residence. We see Lucas on the scene, and we also see him killing Merlyn, thus leaving Caleb an orphan.
A lot of this sounds like spoiler material, but it isn't because you learn all of it in the first one or two episodes. This pilot material forms the basis for the entire storyline.
Caleb proves to be an intelligent young boy, and has a sense about whether a person is speaking the truth or not. After being orphaned he is placed in a home for wayward children, operated by a black woman who seems to have insight abilities of her own.
A pattern begins. Caleb is visited by Lucas on a regular basis and by his dead sister, Merlyn who advises Caleb to stay clear of Lucas. Caleb can't see why Merlyn is advising him to do so since Lucas seems to have genuine concern for his welfare.
The secondary characters are also intriguing. Caleb also has an aunt (Gail Emory) who comes to claim him. Of course, Lucas has to undermine this endeavor. Although her initial reaction to Lucas is cold, she seems to slowly melt by his charms.
The relationship causes a rift between Lucas and his steady "squeeze," Selena Coombs. Selena is half sex-pot and half school teacher. She's a complex figure, as she oscillates between standing with Lucas and standing against him.
As a counterpoint to Lucas who only seems to have dark designs on Caleb, we're introduced to Dr. Matt Crower who also takes a special interest in Caleb -- especially to the extent that he can undermine Lucas' plans or designs.
Another character who isn't one hundred percent with Lucas is his own deputy, Ben Healy. Healy, though weak willed, is a man of conscience, and isn't happy with the manipulations he sees Lucas take with the town folk.
Clearly, the tug of war is over Caleb's soul, and the fight continues to the very last episode. Caleb is such a likeable lad that we'd all like to see him break free of his satanic father and lead a normal life, so the drama keeps the audience tied in to the main storyline pretty tightly. The week-to-week machinations of Lucas are actually more humorous than gloomy. My perspective is that this is due to the talents of Gary Cole -- who makes himself the man you just love to hate.
All of the casting is first class. I was impressed with all of the performances.
I recently watched a portion of the show on DVD, and it holds up very well. This is probably not a show for everyone. It's geared for young teens upward. The themes and situations are definitely mature/adult, so you have to take that into consideration. This will also not appeal to individuals who have an adversity toward stories involving the supernatural.
For myself, I enjoyed watching the individual actor performances and interactions than being drawn in to the ultimate climax. If I had been the director, I would have handled the last couple of episodes very differently, but, overall, for fans of the macabre, I'm certain you'll find the DVD set to be highly entertaining.