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TV Series Review

It's terrible to be rich in America. No, let me take that back: It's terrible to be rich on an American television show.

Sure, these telegenic characters may live in sprawling mansions and stroll through manicured gardens. Granted, they may own Gucci handbags and teeter on their Jimmy Choos. But where, pray tell, do they actually store all their designer gear? Because there's certainly no room in their mansion's walk-in closets—not with all the skeletons stuffed in them.

Concrete Evidence

Take the Hawthornes in CBS's American Gothic. They're a well-to-do Boston family who made their fortune in the concrete business. For the most part, they've always been a family that mixed well with other Northeast elite: Father Mitch and mother Madeline made sure of that. Daughter Alison took so firmly to the family's hoity-toity ways that she's running for mayor now. Young son Cam is a successful artist. And baby sister Tessa—well, she's just the sweetest, nicest girl you'd ever want to buy concrete from.

Admittedly, the family's not perfect. Eldest son Garrett did disappear for, oh, 14 years without so much as a Facebook page status update. But the Golden Son is back now! And everyone is sure that he'll shave and stop stabbing himself in the hand eventually.

But the family empire has been crumbling as of late. Like, literally.

When a tunnel made of Hawthorne concrete suddenly gives way, police discover a clue from a long-dormant cold case: a belt apparently used by the so-called Silver Bell Killer 15 years before. (The killer used the belt to strangle somebody, not as a fashion accessory.) Oddly, Tessa finds a box full of silver bells on her family's property right around the same time. It's not long before patriarch Mitch suffers a heart attack. And when he starts babbling to Madeline that they "have to tell the truth," Madeline promptly squeezes off his oxygen tube.

Cementing his fate, as it were.

Is it possible that Mitch and Madeline could've tag-teamed as the Silver Bell Killer? Could one of the kids be in on it? Or is Mom simply protecting one of her progeny?

But who has time to find out? The Hawthornes, after all, have a lot on their silver serving plate. Cam is a recovering drug addict. His son, Jack (the only person in the family who has an airtight alibi, given he wasn't yet born at the time) is cutting the tails off cats and stealing neighbors' dentures. Alison, despite being married, is exploring a same-sex dalliance with her campaign manager. Tessa's marriage to police detective Brady is on the rocks, too. And Garrett? Well, let's just say that it'd be best to keep sharp objects away from the guy for now.

Another Brick in the Wall

In the world of fashionable television, black is the new black. Dramas are practically required to be dark and brooding, filled with gloomy subplots and shadowy literary pretensions and, of course, lots of problematic content.

American Gothic wants to be fashionable. But in order to stand out from all the other dark shows out there, it has accessorized with an extra dose of crazy. While each episode snatches its title from a well-known American painting (American Gothic itself was pulled from Grant Wood's famous farmer portrait), its creators appear to have taken most of their inspiration from Jackson Pollock—enthusiastically spattering stray plot points and disjointed mysteries and, oh yes, sex and drugs and the occasional murder on the telegenic canvas, hoping it'd all look great and important in the end.

Alas, unlike Pollock, what we have here is just a mess. While American Gothic doesn't go overboard with problematic content—this is a CBS show, not one on AMC or FX, after all—there's still plenty to give viewers pause. Characters engage in all sorts of physical relationships. They drink and smoke. Oh, and they sometimes kill, too. Let's not forget that.

American Gothic tries to pass itself off as serious entertainment when it actually wants to be unhinged summer escapism.

It flails at both.

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Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

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Christian Beliefs

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Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

American Gothic: July, 6, 2016 "Nighthawks"



Readability Age Range



Juliet Rylance as Alison Hawthorne-Price; Antony Starr as Garrett Hawthorne; Justin Chatwin as Cam Hawthorne; Megan Ketch as Tessa Ross; Elliot Knight as Brady Ross; Stephanie Leonidas as Sophie Hawthorne; Gabriel Bateman as Jack Hawthorne; Virginia Madsen as Madeline Hawthorne; Catalina Sandino Moreno as Christina Morales; Maureen Sebastian as Naomi Flynn; Dylan Bruce as Tom Price; Lorna Wilson as Phyllis Krittenhauser; Aidan Devine as Gunther Holzman






Record Label




On Video

Year Published



Paul Asay

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