With The Shield, FX was one of the first networks to introduce the proverbial anti-hero that has taken over cable drama in the past decade. Asked today how much darker cable dramas can go, FX CEO John Landgraf, giving a nod to David Chase for starting the trend with The Sopranos, said, “I can’t imagine a protagonist darker than (Breaking Bad‘s) Walter White. That’s the end of the road for out-darking each other — this nuclear arms race of darkness has ended.”
Landgraf confirmed what Guillermo del Toro said when FX greenlighted a pilot for The Strain — that the project will have a limited run spanning three to five seasons. The Strain series, based on del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire novel trilogy, will produce “39-65 episodes, no less, no more,” Landgraf said, adding “What if a television show could be just the length that is optimal for that story?” The Strain‘s order is technically for a pilot but has a writing staff that has completed five scripts already, and a series pickup is considered a formality. Also pretty certain — a second season renewal for freshman drama The Bridge, with Landgraf touting ist story trajectory.
Landgraf also further discussed the plans for the FX brand expansion with the upcoming launch of FXX and rebranding of FXM. The plan is to beef up output from 13 original series now to 25 across the three networks over the next couple of years. He listed a slightly expanding demographic ranges for each network, 16-60 for the mothership FX channel, 16-35 for FXX and 25-60 for FXM. In the expansion, the company followed the HBO model where “everything filters through one brand” as opposed to AMC Networks where the different networks — including AMC, Sundance, IFC and WE tv — are their own brands, Landgraf said. The expansion also would allow FX to join the ranks of the “heavyweights,” Landgraf suggested. “I look at the potency of HBO, AMC and what I believe will be a very potent brand in Netflix,” Landgraf said. “We’ve been punching above our weight for a long time, and our management was very supportive in giving us more resources… We’ll have to become a heavyweight in order to be a top brand.”
Landgraf was among the first TV executives to cry foul over Netflix touting its originals as successes but refusing to disclose viewership data. Other honchos have since echoed his sentiment but today Landgraf steered clear from taking another shot at the streaming service, only saying that “if I were the mayor of TV, I think all competitive industries should have verified, third party info, but I don’t get to decide what Netflix does, and neither do you.” Landgraf went on to praise Netflix on the “quality of output” for House Of Cards, saying that the service “is to be congratulated that the first drama they put out was nominated for Best Drama Series.”
FX has been acquiring most big features out there. The company now has licensed “2/3 of blockbusters,” Landgraf said. “We have more than twice more movies than all competitors combined. We have 21 movie premieres on FXX in the next year.”