One of the unique aspects of FX’s American Horror Story is that it’s an anthology series — which means that each season the show features an entirely new and original set of characters, problems, and plotlines, though they often recycle actors (not that we’re complaining). It was a fresh take on tired television series that attempt to keep viewers interested even after nine years of telling the same story (looking at you How I Met Your Mother).
Now, HBO has started its own anthology series: True Detective, which will feature new characters and a new case each season. Since the series is already so addicting, it’s not hard to imagine HBO has a hit on their hands with this new show. But the premiere of True Detective begs the question: will we be seeing more of these anthology series?
The best answer we can give is: hopefully.
With Fox opting out of pilot season, and many of the major networks developing spinoffs of already established shows — seriously, there’s at least half a dozen in the works — anthology series are a refreshing idea in TV right now. They offer all the great aspects of a mini series along with the stability of a traditional show.
In the case of American Horror Story, we get to see our favorite actors return to the same series season after season, but they’re challenged to portray new characters in an entirely different setting. In True Detective, the series will feature a whole new case and cast of characters next season. Anthology series mix up the structure of their show enough to keep it interesting, but stick to the same idea so as not to alienate fans.
Besides, there’s the benefit of picking up with the latest episodes of a show even if you're a season behind (or if you didn't care for last year's batch). Instead of investing in spinoffs — which many fans tend to approach dubiously — networks should be looking into anthology shows. They’re much more exciting and still a novelty... for the time being.