FX Chief: “HBO and FX Absolutely Dominated the Race for Quality in Television”

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

FX Boss Talks Ronald Reagan’s Fargo Season 2 Role, The Americans’ Future, Bridge Regrets and More.

“It’s a big, sprawling, in some ways more comedic, although at times very serious, show,” John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks and FX Productions, told reporters at the Television Critics Association Winter Tour in Pasadena on Sunday.The second, 10-episode round will be set in the late ’70s against the backdrop of Reagan’s first campaign for president, FX CEO John Landgraf announced to TV critics Sunday.

FX held its panel at the TCA Winter Press Tour on Sunday, and when it comes to talking about the upcoming third season of “The Americans,” network guru John Landgraf made one thing clear: Despite some weaker live ratings, he does not see the show getting canceled at any point in the near future. After praising the network’s robust slate of shows and its 2014 Nielsen standing — FX rounded out the year the No. 4 network on cable, with four of the top 10 rated cable series — the famously erudite network chief showcased a pair of power-point slides, which broke down the networks by the number of critics’ 2014 top 10 lists that their programming appeared on.

Reagan is a character in it, and some movies that he’s reputed to have made, but a lot of what it’s about is the cultural transformation that was going on in America at that time,” Landgraf explained. “So it’s about the sense of — that the war has come home, [Lou] Solverson is a [Vietnam] veteran, and it’s also about feminism, so there are some really significant female characters, as there were with Molly Solverson.” After the panel, Access spoke with Landgraf who said the show is casting a Ronald Reagan. The upcoming season, which will take us to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Luverne, Minnesota, follows a downer decade — the multiple assassinations in the ’60s, the Vietnam War, Watergate.

As a caveat, Landgraf did insist that some of this will depend on “how good it remains,” and the ratings probably do need to maintain a certain level. And some of his movies are also a part of the show.” * American Horror Story will return in October, as usual, for its fifth installment, while creator Ryan Murphy’s new anthology series American Crime Story will make its debut in early 2016. * Landgraf had “a lot of regrets” about not renewing The Bridge for Season 3, but the drama had a “relentlessly downward trajectory” in terms of ratings. * How long will The Americans run considering its own less-than-stellar live ratings? “I think it’ll be at least five [seasons],” Landgraf replied. “Some of that will be dependent on how good it remains. … I sure would like to see the Emmys step up and take notice [of the series]. The point he made not with superlatives but with data: the rest, AMC, Netflix and Showtime, ranked well behind with 74, 67 and 62, respectively. “HBO and FX absolutely dominated the race for quality in television, and this shows at the moment that the race for the best in TV is really only a competition between two channels, with all the others way way behind the two leaders,” he said as a roomful of reporters took in the slides. He admitted to feeling somewhat bad still over canceling “The Bridge,” but commented that its decline in the numbers eventually reached the point where it was no longer feasible to keep the show around anymore.

FX previously announced that actor Patrick Wilson will play the younger Lou, the father of Molly (who was played by Allison Tolman in the first installment of “Fargo”). The story will focus on a small-town married couple, played by Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons, who find themselves caught in the middle of a war between the last of the mom-and-pop crime syndicates and an out-of-town new corporate crime syndicate.

The biggest thing, per Landgraf, that could help the show at this point would be if the Emmys finally decided to “take notice” of the show, and the performances of Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. He was more philosophical on the issue of drama series formats today. “When I looked at the revolution in TV sparked by The Sopranos, when you take storytellers and put them into a confined box, they can make some good shows but eventually everything starts to feel repetitive,” he said. “While these really great novelistic series continue to come through the door, that started to feel like a formula — a drama has to be 7 years long, 91 hours… that turned into golden handcuffs.

So far, this has been a series that has been consistently great, but somehow has been just a rung too low on the ladder for the Emmys to give it some love. And while the ratings are a perennial disappointment, Landgraf reiterated that the series does lift the network’s creative standing: “We’re not really a channel that’s trying to be the highest-rated channel on television,” he added. “We’re trying as hard as we possibly can to be the best channel on television.” Landgraf acknowledged that he does have regrets about pulling the plug after the second season of the border drama, but the ratings were such that he had no choice. “It was a relentless downward trajectory,” he said, adding that while he can ignore ratings for a long time, if a series is still falling after 26 episodes he has to reconsider the space it’s taking up on the schedule.

It is really hard sometimes to get them to pay attention to a lower-rated cable show, provided that it is not on a premium network like HBO or Showtime. There were other challenges, too, with Landgraf acknowledging that this was the first time the network had done a show based on a format and the series struggled to replicate the original iteration’s marriage of a border storyline with a serial killer one early on. I think you’re still going to see us renewing good shows (that are not highly rated).” In that context, Landgraf argued that Middle Eastern drama Tyrant “earned a second season.” “It thought the show finished up really strongly, and I think they made a strong pitch for a second season. And the decision to do more will be in his hands as well, but Landgraf noted that his star does want to keep making the show after the forthcoming season, which bows in April. In the interim, FX announced Sunday that it’ll air a C.K. stand-up special, which will come out of the comic’s currently sold-out comedy tour, and a Pamela Adlon pilot that C.K. will produce.

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