John Landgraf On “Rolling The Dice” With Charlie Sheen: “I Believe In Redemption”

Not surprisingly, the majority of FX’s executive session this morning was devoted to the network’s decision to pick up Charlie Sheen’s new series Anger Management. FX president John Landgraf admitted he walked into the pitch for the show “as skeptical as you might imagine I would be.” But he said that “it was just a really excellent pitch… It was a character Charlie ought to be playing.” The character has a “checkered past, but (is) very self-aware, struggling but looking to do more positive things in his life.” Asked about Sheen’s own checkered past, including accusations of violence against women, Landgraf said he was “all for giving him the opportunity to turn things around.” If Sheen wants to “get his house in order” after grappling with substance abuse and strained relationships with his family, and wants to “do a show where he as an actor has more complicated positive relationships with women,” then that “could be a really good thing not only for Charlie but for society…I believe in redemption.” Landgraf said the decision to pick up Anger Management was not a publicity stunt: FX wants to build a slate of off-network shows that it can strip. FX has had  success with Two And A Half Men, but recently lost bidding for two other comedy hits: The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family. Building such properties internally takes time: It will take eight seasons for FX’s comedy It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia to reach the 100-episode mark. Under the model employed by Debmar-Mercury for Anger Management, if the show’s initial 10-episode order by FX hits a target rating, then that will trigger an order for 90 additional episodes. They will be produced on an accelerated schedule. “Rather than a plot for attention, this is really a stab at getting another back-end property,” Landgraf said. “We could launch it behind Two And A Half Men, and it will give us an opportunity to fill in our schedule with another potent off-net sitcom if you will, even though it’s starting on our air.” What’s more Landgraf says that Anger Management is “a very inexpensive series.”

So far, FX brass has only seen 15 brief storylines; scripts are expected to be delivered shortly. Landgraf admitted that the network doesn’t like going straight to series without a pilot and not having the same creative control it has over its own productions. He added, though, that FX is “a network that likes to take risks.” He doesn’t know how it will turn out. “It could premiere and sink like a stone. I know Charlie really wants to do this, he is committed, a gifted comedic actor, one of best sitcom leads one could ever get. Beyond that everything we do a roll of dice — sometimes it comes up what you want, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Other highlights from FX’s executive session:

– “I think we’re a little light on the drama side right now,” Landgraf said. “We’d like to have four or five dramas and would like to launch two more in the next year from this point. … Our priority is to find something great and distinctive that moves the form.”

– On the future of Powers: It proved to be very difficult to adapt from the graphic novel, Landgraf said. FX didn’t pick up the pilot to series but ordered a “fairly substantial rewrite.” Now the network is “trying to decide whether pull the trigger on that reshoot.”

American Horror Story co-creator Ryan Murphy in is “active conversations for a new cast” after all main characters were killed off in the first season finale. “Two or possibly three series regulars and guest stars from Season 1 are in talks to continue” playing entirely new roles in Season 2, Landgraf said, declining to name names. He added that FX decided not to disclose ahead of time that the show was conceived as an anthology series “because that would have diminished the suspense.”

– On the decision to pick up a late-night show starring Russell Brand: “With Russell Brand, we’re finally starting to think about the late night business…It’s tough. We have Kimmel, Conan, Letterman, Stewart and Colbert (well positioned). So you have to start small, with someone who is not on air, someone new…I really like as a channel… to have a daily late-night show, one satirizing popular and political culture.”

Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

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