Double double, toil and trouble indeed: FX is doubling down on its popular horror anthology. Creator Ryan Murphy announced this Thursday that the network is looking into producing not just one but two seasons of American Horror Story in 2016. "Next year we might do a fall American Horror Story and a spring," the showrunner revealed to Entertainment Weekly. So I hope you're ready to be scared twice as much as normal, AHS fans.
By all objective measurements, American Horror Story has been an unqualified success for the network. The anthology series slays in the ratings: Season 3's Coven averaged an impressive-for-cable 4.0 million viewers per episode, and while Season 4's Freak Show's average was a bit lower, at 3.85 million, its premiere broke records to become the single most-watched telecast in FX history, with 6.17 million people tuning in to watch the gruesome introduction of Twisty the Clown. It also racks up accolades when it comes to awards season: its four iterations combined have garnered a staggering 70 Emmy nominations. Nineteen of those nominations were for Freak Show alone, making it the second-most honored television program of the year, behind only Season 5 of HBO's Game Of Thrones (which itself earned a near-record 24 nominations).
So, of course, FX would want to take advantage of its hottest commodity. Hollywood isn't typically known for its restraint — just look at the current glut of superhero movies for an example — so this news shouldn't necessarily come as a surprise. But between AHS and his two new fall shows, American Crime Story and Scream Queens, Ryan Murphy is already a very busy bee without throwing a second season of AHS on top of the pile. Exactly how will this all shake it out? I see three distinct possibilities:
1. Two Full-Length Seasons
I know, Twisty, so exciting! This is definitely the most optimistic possibility: that FX is so keen for more AHS that they'll allow Murphy to produce two complete 13-episode seasons in one year. That would mean the anthology series was burgeoning to a daunting 26 episodes per year — longer even than traditional broadcast channel shows. How would Murphy expect to handle such a massive workload, especially considering his commitment to two other series?
"We’re doing something that we’ve never done before on the show where we’re doing two different groups of writers rooms," he told EW . Double the number of writers, double the number of episodes. Makes sense. Also, Murphy noted that, "The next thing we’re crafting up is very, very different than this. Not smaller. But just not opulent. More rogue and more dark." If it's "not smaller," that certainly seems to imply a full season, right?
2. Two Half-Seasons
Then again, maybe this "two seasons" business won't even me an increase in number of episodes at all. Maybe each season will simply be half the length of a traditional iteration of AHS, with six or seven hours apiece. But before you start crying about less AHS, consider this: We wouldn't even be getting less AHS, technically; we would still get the same total number of episodes each year, but the setting and characters would change twice as often.
3. One Full Season & One Half-Season
Here's my crazy, out-of-left-field theory: We'll get one shorter, half-season in the fall of 2016, then one full season when the show returns in the spring of 2017. As unusual as this sounds, it wouldn't be an unprecedented move. ABC aired the eight-episode first season of Marvel's Agent Carter during the midseason break of the full-length Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., as a sort of treat to tide fans over during the months of January and February. (ABC originally conceived of Once Upon A Time In Wonderland in the same fashion, before changing their minds and airing the spinoff concurrently with Once Upon A Time.)
I know Murphy said that the next iteration of AHS wouldn't be "smaller," but perhaps he didn't mean that in the literal number-of-episodes sense, but rather in the more metaphorical sense, referring to the season's ambition, production values, and big-name stars. The words Murphy used to describe the upcoming season, "different," "rogue," and "dark," conjure up images in my mind of a short, spooky, six- to eight-episode season premiering around Halloween time and lasting until the end of the calendar year, an Agent Carter-like treat to tide fans over until the full season begins after the New Year.
Of course, all of this is pure speculation at this point — Murphy has said that he and FX still "have to decide" about the direction they're taking the show. But while we wait for more reports about the future of American Horror Story, we have a whole new season to enjoy.
AHS: Hotel premieres on Oct. 7, 2015.