Witches weird and wonderful

Witches weird and wonderful
Television still: American Horror Story: Coven

First, it was about a haunted house, then a madman's asylum, and now, a whole bunch of witches.

The funny thing about the American Horror Story series is that the same actresses - Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Taissa Farmiga, Lily Rabe and Frances Conroy - play different roles throughout the series and seem to want to outdo not just one another, but also themselves.

The funnier thing may be that series creators, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, also made Glee. (Then again, this is not too surprising when you consider that all these over-the-top horror stories are actually one naughty, loony wink away from breaking out into a song and dance.)

The funniest thing, though, has to be the outrageous set-ups here of this nuttier-and-nuttier female-empowering series, anchored by the spectacular Lange who stumbles about looking like the Incredible Booze Kook, and propelled by the belief that graphic horror and offbeat scares can be so unsettling you really just have to laugh it off.

To me, American Horror Story: Coven is the most fun, campy and knowingly offensive in the series so far - it throws faux historical, pop cultural, mish-mash ingredients, cringing racial stereotypes and infernal southern twangs into its boiling cauldron.

But amid the hysteria and hysterics in this concoction, there are very horrible and bloody moments, mostly via Kathy Bates' very evil and paradoxically homely character, Delphine LaLaurie, an omnipotent 19th-century New Orleans slave-torturer who is resurrected for her immortal power and subsequently works in the witches' mansion as a lowly maid.

This woman is a racist-sadist so vile she kills her slaves for their life- rejuvenating body parts and even grafts the head of a bull onto one of them to turn the poor sap into a minotaur of sicko-psycho sexual proportions.

At one point, Bates' own head is chopped off and placed in front of a TV screen to force her to watch the slave- emancipation series Roots as divine punishment.

And so the formidable Bates meets her hellish match in Gabourey Sidibe's (Precious) Queenie, a black trainee witch in a headstrong clique of young witches joining the coven of the "Supreme" one, Fiona Goode (Lange), who is so supremely unhinged as mother hen and master manipulator.

Lange is the funniest sexy lady to mouth the most vulgar and wicked lines with all the casualness of a Mariah Carey-class diva. "You've got a mean streak wider than your backside," she mocks Bates.

Besides Queenie, the newcomers entering her training school-coven include Zoe the sane one (Farmiga), Madison the slutty one (Emma Roberts), and Nan the freaky one who can hear the thoughts of others (Jamie Brewer).

One of them, much to chief drama mama Goode's jealous, homicidal displeasure, is destined to lead as the new "Supreme", even as their coven revives a battle with a vengeful zombie-conjuring voodoo high priestess, Marie Laveau (the funny-fearsome Angela Bassett).

I marvel at the way everything plus the kitchen sink is dumped into this tale that is basically about women doing what they apparently like best when the mood strikes at Revenge Hour - fight like chickens in a coop.

What I really dig about Coven is the way it embraces the outcasts of society. Commendably, it empowers older women, fat girls, minorities, weird chicks and even insanely loyal mute butlers.

Resurrection of another kind takes place in 24: Live Another Day, where Kiefer Sutherland returns as fugitive counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer.

Actually, it is more like Run Another Day because the guy just keeps on running, fleeing and chasing to stop yet another major terrorist attack on America. As is usual in the 24 universe, nobody believes him, not even the President of the United States (returning actor William Devane) whose butt he had saved before.

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