Perhaps it was a nod to the critical acclaim several FX shows have amassed lately, but Fox on Tues devoted its entire 2nd day of TCA to the cable net known for a mix of gritty dramas and guerrilla comedies. As usual, FX pres/gm John Landgraf kicked things off with a half-hour exec session, during which he announced a couple news bites (the renewal of Louis C.K.-helmed comedy “Louis” for a 2nd season and a new comedy series by the guys behind “Reno 911” called “Alabama” about a bungling crew of space adventurers) but also got philosophical about cable. “It’s become almost a status symbol for an actor to have a cable show,” he said, noting that the opposite used to be true just a few years ago. “Part of that has to do with the creative boldness of The Shield and [HBO’s] The Wire,” he said. Landgraf said FX’s rise has been a step-by-step process. For example, he and other execs went to Glenn Close’s apartment to convince her to appear on “The Shield” and found that the A-List actress hadn’t even heard of FX. After she agreed to do it, her association led to her playing the lead on “Damages,” which critics continue to hail as one of the best series on TV. He pointed out that The Shield also served as a training ground for Kurt Sutter, who is now the creator and showrunner for critical darling “Sons of Anarchy,” which Landgraf said is now the highest rated show in FX history. Another factor in attracting A-List talent: Landgraf noted that many A-Listers can’t find as many nuanced, intricate character dramas in the movie world now that big special effects action flicks dominate—so they’re turning to TV and more specifically to cable.
Landgraf also punted when asked whether he thinks FX gets enough credit for its shows. Some critics pointed out that critically acclaimed “Sons of Anarchy” failed to get any Emmy nods (In a later panel, Sons actors had choice words for Emmy voters, and even laced it with a bit of biker language). Interestingly, Landgraf noted that Emmy-nominated Damages deals with well-dressed rich people vs other FX shows that dwell in more of a blue collar world—something that may influence Emmy voters who personally fall more into the first camp than the second. But at the same time, he didn’t seem to sweat it much. Landgraf also said FX will eventually max out with about a dozen original shows for fear of overextending its basic-cable marketing budget. In fact, legendary showrunner Shawn Ryan said FX’s commitment to properly promote shows is part of why he doesn’t worry that his new show “Terriers” about P.I.’s in San Diego has a title that doesn’t immediately make sense. “It didn’t hurt The Sopranos,” he said. “ I have a ton of faith in the FX publicity/marketing department… I think they do their job masterfully, and I fully trust them.”
Meanwhile, Landgraf also said he’s glad FX gets a dual revenue stream of advertising and license fees, noting the impact of DVRs on the ability to monetize shows through advertising. “Anyone who sits in this chair and doesn’t tell you they wish the DVR was never invented is lying,” he said while acknowledging that it’s a great consumer device that he uses himself. In the end, Landgraf said FX’s brand revolves around adult-oriented content and stay true to that personality—whether that applies to dramas or comedies. “You put your kids to bed, and you watch FX,” he said.
(Michael Grebb is executive editor of CableFAX).