CATEGORIES TV
american horror story freak showThis past year, "American Horror Story" went from being the really, really great show that a small but dedicated (and, of course, deeply perverse) fan base watched to becoming a genuine, zeitgeist-capturing cultural phenomenon. (Fun fact: people love witches!) That means that all eyes are on the forthcoming new installment, "American Horror Story: Freak Show," which, should it stick to the show's broadcast schedule, should debut sometime before Halloween.

It's going to be a long, long few months until creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk and their band of merry deviants return to reap more bloody mayhem. (Especially if you've already watched the similarly brilliant, stand-alone "True Detective.") So what to do until then? Well, wildly speculate on what we want from the upcoming season of "American Horror Story," of course.

So here are five things that we really, really, ridiculously want to see from season 4 of "American Horror Story" (and considering this is supposedly Jessica Lange's final season with the show, there's a lot riding on it). Should the following aspects be included in the forthcoming season and we'll be freakishly excited for "American Horror Story: Freak Show." For more historical background on what the season could entail, please check out this news piece. Zounds!

1. Professional Freaks
One of the things that made Todd Browning's 1932 horror movie "Freaks" such an unforgettable, profoundly disturbing classic was the fact that actual sideshow performers had starring roles in the film. There wasn't any movie magic or make-up trickery; these guys were all true freaks. (And "freaks" is an empowering term, here, one that the performers own, not a derogatory term meant to belittle.)

Considering how many classic horror movies have served as inspiration for "American Horror Story" thus far (remember all those Hitchcock music cues from the first season?), you'd better believe that it will liberally reference Browning's film, even if it was released 20 years before the events of "American Horror Story: Freak Show." Similarly, the "X-Files" episode "Humbug," which, like "American Horror Story: Freak Show," is set primarily in Florida, featured more modern-day freaks, but they were still real freaks. And that episode is one of the very best of the entire series. So it would be a shame if "American Horror Story: Freak Show" didn't up its street cred (and its psychological depth) by including real-life, honest-to-god freaks in the mix.

2. The Ladies, All Together
There is no question that "American Horror Story: Coven" was a tremendous achievement, but it was almost something of an embarrassment of riches, at least in terms of its bountifully talented actresses. The same problem will befall "American Horror Story: Freak Show," undoubtedly, considering that Lange, Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Frances Conroy, Emma Roberts, Gabourey Sidibe, and Jamie Brewer will all be back for this new season. Of course, it's hard to tell what the deals are for each individual actress, but sometimes last season felt too diffuse, with the actresses spending too much time apart. Towards the second half of the season, with all of the witches (and voodoo high priestesses) under one roof, the season really soared.

It would be nice, for this new season, to have a game plan that keeps the women, especially the holy trinity of Lange, Bates, and Bassett, in the same place, at the same time, for most of the season. Because, while any one of these actresses is amazing on their own, together it's something close to miraculous. Earlier reports that Lange will be involved "in a reduced capacity" have us worried... But hopefully everything will be figured out and the women can be together... even if they're playing a freakish cluster instead of a coven of witches.

3. Flashbacks to the Heyday of Freak Shows
Structurally, "American Horror Story" has always been ambitious. The second season, "American Horror Story: Asylum," featured a number of timelines, including one set in the present day (that ended up paying off more than expected), and "Coven" had flashbacks set in the deep past, which added oomph because so many of the characters were immortal and present in both narrative threads. It's already been stated that this season would be set in the 1950s, in the waning days of the freak show circuit, so it would be nice to get flashbacks to the heyday of freak shows. (Again: look for more references to "Freaks.")

For a while, Murphy has teased a wild west component to the show, with one of the potential shooting locations for season 4 being New Mexico (we can imagine him getting into some Tony Hillerman-style business), so setting this new season partially during the freak show heyday would also serve to scratch that particular itch.

4. Animals
When you think of freak shows and carnivals, images undoubtedly pop up of animals -- fearsome, exotic beasts housed in grungy cages. This needs to be a part of "American Horror Story: Freak Show." Not only does it add some variety to the show's visuals, it adds a sense of danger, since poisonous, fanged, and clawed creatures can rip through human flesh like so much tissue paper. Also, the thought of Lange trying to out-purr a caged tiger positively makes us vibrate with anticipation. Yes please.

5. Actors From Season 1
"American Horror Story: Coven" had a handful of actors and actresses from the first season (most notably: Lily Rabe, Evan Peters, and Taissa Farmiga, along with Lange), but it would be nice, with the new season, to get some of the band back together. We would love to see Dylan McDermott, who returned for a brief but memorable role in Season 2 but sat out Season 3 entirely, come back, along with Connie Britton (who has been missing since the first season). There are some minor characters who it would be nice to see return, like Christine Estabrook, who played the hilarious realtor; Matt Ross, who was a deranged doctor; and Rosa Salazar, who played a murdered nurse. While none of these actors are make-or-break, it would still be nice to see them come back for one more round in Murphy and Falchuk's spook house.

"American Horror Story: Freak Show" premieres in October on FX.

Photo by Frank Micelotta/Invision for FX/AP Images