At TCA today, FX Networks CEO John Landgraf sent a love letter to creators. “I love artists. I really, genuinely do. I want us to be the wind in their sails,” he said during the network’s executive session. Landgraf also assured critics that he plans to continue to take risks with concepts that are off-mainstream. “We’d rather fail spectacularly & nobly than succeed in a quiet, middling way,” he said. He gave an update on the evolution of FX and its up-and-coming sibling FXX, which has been running only comedy programming since its launch last fall. That may change. “It’s going to take awhile for the two brands to shake out… There wil be drama on both channels I think,” he said.
Landgraf revealed details about the latest installment of American Horror Story, which has been flirting with Neil Patrick Harris for a part. “It will be set in 1950s and has a very different look from a designer standpoint. Some years, the show is big, brash and campy like Coven, some are dark and brooding like Asylum. Freak Show is half-way between these two.”
Landgraf gave AHS co-creator/executive producer Ryan Murphy props for introducing the “analogical miniseries” genre that has “created new opportunities for writers and creators” like Nic Pizzolatto with HBO’s True Detective and Noah Hawley with FX’s Fargo.
Both True Detective and Fargo are heading into their second installments after well received first cycles top-lined by movie stars, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson (True Detective) and Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo). There are pitfalls. “I think True Detective is going to have to prove that it’s more than just a vehicle for movie stars,” Landgraf said of the HBO drama, which is close to locking in Colin Farrell for Season 2. On Fargo, Landgraf said that he thinks FX needed Thornton, who had worked with the Coen brothers before, for the TV series inspired by the cult movie. “It sanctioned the quality of Noah Hawley’s material.” Now that people know the tone, style and quality of the show, it would be nice to have a movie star in the second cycle, but I don’t think it’s necessary,” Landgraf said, noting that newcomer Allison Tolman “brought as much to Fargo’s first installment as Billy Bob Thornton did.”
Landgraf was optimistic about the renewal chances off all four original series that have premiered this summer, including dramas The Strain and Tyrant and comedies Married and You’re the Worst, though FX likes to wait for extensive Live+7 data before making decisions. (FX just abandoned reporting Live+same day ratings in favor of Live+3.) “The Strain is off to a fantastic start on a new night for us, Sunday, and will be the biggest drama launch in total viewers and second or third in 18-49″ when complete ratings data for the premiere is available, Landgraf said. He said he was pleased with the creative direction of Tyrant, which has “showed amazing ratings consistency.” He also said he was “very bullish” on the two comedies.
Landgraf was asked to do a postmortem on W. Kamau Bell‘s late-night talk show and whether the network’s decision to move the show from FX to FXX played a role in its demise. The move was not a factor, Landgraf thinks. “We took a shot. The show wasn’t quite good enough yet,” he said. But he predicted that Bell will be back.