“People are going to be very interested in this around the presidential election and it is going to be a great show,” the increasing defensive Disney employee said today at the TCA as a rising tide of criticism emerged online to the series executive produced by Ryan Murphy and Nina Jacobson and set for September 2020.
“I don’t believe it’s going to determine who the next president of the United States is going to be,” Landgraf curtly asserted in his end of day executive session to suggestions that the timing and reminder of the Bill Clinton sex scandal will be a gift to incumbent Donald Trump.
The chair of FX Networks and FX Productions insisted that neither the former POTUS nor the ex-Celebrity Apprentice host’s 2016 rival Hillary Clinton would be involved with the Monica Lewinsky produced limited series “as far as I know.”
Questioned repeatedly Tuesday in the Beverly Hilton’s big ballroom about the Impeachment timing, Landgraf tried to turn the topic to one of artistic freedom. With First Amendment spurs, he proclaimed that he will always “support artists who want to make great art at a time when people will want to watch it.”
Landgraf also made of point of saying that he finds Lewinsky “very impressive.”
Clinton was hauled before Congress for alleged high crimes and misdemeanors in late 1998 after independent counsel Ken Starr submitted his wide ranging report on the scandal rich administration. Coming off a strong Democratic showing in the midterms that fall, the self-described Comeback Kid was acquitted in February 1999 of the charges when the GOP dominated Senate failed to muster the necessary two-thirds majority vote for conviction.
Among those who voted not guilty for Clinton was current 2020 front runner Joe Biden.
Still, in the decades since, the road to a small screen dramatization has not been smooth.
Long time Democrat donor Murphy revealed last year that he had axed a planned Clinton trial series because he couldn’t get Lewinsky herself on board – clearly that’s not the case anymore. Impeachment: ACS is based on Jeffrey Toobin’s A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President best seller. Bringing a “strong” feminist perspective, playwright Sarah Burgess is penning Impeachment for the small screen
In a sense, the ACS crew are sticking with the tried and true. It was Toobin’s Run of His Life that provided the basis for the award scooping first ACS installment about the O.J. Simpson trial.
After several years of lamenting the ever increasing growth of scripted series on the small screen, and potentially self-cannibalizing results, Landgraf took a more restrained approach this time in his first TCA since Disney’s $71.3 billion purchase of most of Fox’s assets became official this spring.
Coming just hours after the House of Mouse released lower than expected third quarter earnings that saw an after-hours stock drop, the news dropping a narrative nuclear weapon in the potentially entitled The impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton took over Landgraf’s attempts to show how FX will “scale up” under its new owners.
As examples of the “expanding roster” that FX plans, Landgraf earlier listed off the pipeline of the Chris Rock starring fourth season of Fargo, Cate Blanchett’s Phyllis Schlafly series Mrs. America, Alex Garland’s Devs, the return of Atlanta, and the Jeff Bridges starring The Old Man. “FX will increase its output of originals but remain measured,” he added with emphasis on the only hoisting the flag to the “best programming we can find.”
A year ago there was pontification of a coming “gilded age of television” and Peak TV’s “narrative exhaustion,” to quote a Guardian article that Landgraf cited in his summer TCA song and dance, this year the usual round of stats received just a line or two. The exec did note that 2019 is estimated to end with 520 scripted series. That’s the same number he predicted last summer, with his own research department eventually culling a number of 495 shows at the end of 2018.
Of course, a spotlight grabbing hard hitting and high production return to the Clinton wars of the late 1990s was not among the line-up then.
Whatever it ends up be called, production is set to begin on the new ACS in February – just as the presidential primaries kick off.
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