Last week, the premiere of American Horror Story: Freak Show broke ratings records for FX, piquing viewer interest with provocative questions like “Is Jessica Lange really going to sing all of ‘Life On Mars?’” and “Where’s Kathy Bates’ bearded-lady character supposed to be from, exactly?” (Answers: “Yes,” and “Baltimore, apparently.”) After bearing witness to the bad things that happen to those who try to shut down Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s freakiest show, FX has responded to those all-time Nielsen highs by ordering a fifth season of American Horror Story. Those yet-to-be-produced 13 episodes have already broken an American Horror Story record: They’ll initiate the series’ biggest-ever game of chicken with Jessica Lange, whose comments that she’ll leave American Horror Story after Freak Show charge headlong toward Murphy’s recently announced plan to persuade her to stay. (“I really want her to keep her hand in,” he recently told reporters. “Does that mean 13 episodes? Does that mean six? Does that mean one?”)
The renewal notice also kicks off the annual trick-or-treat ritual between the TV press and Ryan Murphy, in which stingy old Mr. Murphy responds to all requests for information about the next American Horror Story with nothing but fun-sized morsels of plot details and shooting locations. (One former cause of national anxiety that can be ruled out: The O.J. Simpson trial, which is the basis of the first season of AHS’ forthcoming companion series, American Crime Story.) Perhaps Murphy can solve his Lange problem and his need for new subject matter in one fell swoop, applying the “Two times the Sarah Paulson” technique of Freak Show to a “cloning gone awry” tale starring no one but Jessica Lange. Season five of American Horror Story, which could totally be subtitled The Lange-oliers, debuts October 2015.