FX is treating itself like a full-fledged TV network on Tuesday (Aug. 2), taking on a full day of press tour panels, which is certainly more than The CW could do. Since we (I) live-blogged the CW executive session, there’s absolutely no reason not to give similar treatment to FX Chief John Landgraf.
Click through for the press conference highlights…
9:04 a.m. First announcement of the morning is a happy one: “Louie” has been picked up for 13 episodes, returning at the same time next year.
9:04 a.m. Ben Garrant and Thomas Lennon will do a pilot for FX called “The U.S.S. Alabama,” a space series that he compares to “Reno 911” in tone and structure. They’ll act in the pilot, produce it and write it.
9:06 a.m. Landgraf calls it “thrilling” to have Shawn Ryan back in the fold working on “Terriers,” saying that without Ryan, FX wouldn’t look the way it does today…
9:08 a.m. Talk about the “Damages” deal. FX remains co-owners and co-producers on the show, but “Damages” will not be on FX in any form anymore, since it will be on DirecTV exclusively.
9:09 a.m. Yesterday, the “Lone Star” people said they were doing a cable show on network, so Landgraf is asked to define what a “cable show” is. Landgraf says that the cable networks are so different that you can’t put “cable show” in a box anymore other than series episode order.
9:11 a.m. Landgraf says there’s a “right size” for a basic cable network, but he can’t envision a time when FX is airing seven nights a week or even five nights with original programming. FX’s big initiative, he says, is that the the network has made a big expansion into comedy. He wants FX to have six or seven original comedies. He sees a dozen original shows as the network’s biggest possible expansion. That’s more than The CW has, doesn’t it?
9:12 a.m. FX picked up six new shows this year and four have already gone on. “The League,” “Archer,” “Louie” and “Justified.” If you’re keeping score, all four have been renewed. “Terriers” and “Lights Out” have yet to premiere. Upcoming pilots include “Outlaw Country” (shooting in six weeks and stars Mary Steenburgen)), “Wilfred” (the pilot with Elijah Wood, which finished production last week), plus the comedy from the “Reno 911” gang.
9:14 a.m. Regarding “Justified,” Landgraf says they’re always trying to make “very commercial, very entertaining, very popular” shows, but they’re also trying to make shows that are “really different” and “highly original.” He calls “Justified” FX’s attempt to try to do a Western and to take the White Hat American Hero and deconstruct him. Mission accomplished. Awww… Landgraf says that FX really cares what we think. He calls this an extraordinarily good year, with shows embraced by both the critics and audiences, which he calls a hard target to hit.
9:17 a.m. Does FX get enough credit? “I wouldn’t say that,” Landgraf says. He’s been in his job for six years and he recalls the “heady times” when “The Shield” was on and “Nip/Tuck” and “Rescue Me” launched. He says that now the marketplace is more crowded, saying that there were 40 scripted shows on all of cable when “The Shield” launched and now there are 140.
9:18 a.m. “Sons of Anarchy” is now the highest rated show FX has ever had on air and it grew 80 percent last season. He calls it a “grand slam home-run,” but notes that things like “Breaking Bad” and “True Blood” and “Glee” and “Mad Men” means that it’s a more crowded field, so it’s harder to be that “sine qua non.”
9:20 a.m. Landgraf denies that the “Louie” pick-up was earlier than usual for FX. He cites strong DVR numbers for the comedy, increasingly strong. He says that FX is still resisting the temptation to give immediate pickups to shows, a trend that he says mostly feels good for the networks and the shows, but isn’t disciplined business.
9:22 a.m. Has FX become a place where actors seek them out? “It’s really remarkable to me,” Landgraf says. He recalls the first time he went to New York City to try to recruit Glenn Close to “The Shield.” At the time, Glenn had never seen “The Shield” and never heard of FX. He compares it to climbing Mt. Olympus and meeting a God. “It’s just totally different now,” he says, calling it “almost a status symbol” for an actor to have a cable show now, something which would have been a “reduction of status” previously. He credits the creative boldness of cable shows, compared to the near-disappearance of the mid-priced drama/adult film in movies. He notes that this is tied to the number of top-level writers who have decided to come work on cable.
9:26 a.m. Why are cable networks premiering shows in September against broadcast networks? He calls FX and USA influential in this respect. FX premiered “Nip/Tuck” in the middle of fall premiere season, which was risky. He’s referring to the third season of “Nip/Tuck.” He reckons this proved that the right shows can premiere in the fall on cable. He says that ideally a cable network wants programming 52 weeks a year, particularly in the fall, with Christmas season approaching.
9:28 a.m. Does FX feel a little snubbed by the Emmys? “Emmys live in their own separate universe,” Landgraf says. He cites the universal acclaim for slows like “Sons of Anarchy,” “Justified” and other non-“Damages” show and then notes the lack of Emmy recognition for those. He observes that “Damages” is the network’s upper crust show, while most of FX’s brand is “the literature of the common man,” observing that there are no grooming tips to be taken from “Sons of Anarchy.” He isn’t sure if this matters with Emmy voters.
9:31 a.m. Landgraf says that another reason to premiere shows in fall is that FX’s programming isn’t really going head-to-head, topically, with what the networks do, nor is the network’s viewership model. He says that 50 percent of their shows’ viewership comes from people turning on the TV (i.e. not from direct flow from 9 p.m. programming on FX).
9:33 a.m. The DVR is a great device for consumers, Landgraf says, but he admits that from a network standpoint, it’s a bit of a nightmare. They’re losing measurable viewers on-air. The key is to find a way to measure shows by the total audience watching them. They look at the DVR audience as a total audience. Then he goes into math regarding C3 ratings. I should probably learn to understand C3 numbers. Currently I don’t.
9:35 a.m. Landgraf laments that he didn’t say anything “tweet-worthy,” so he says Peter Rice gave him permission to deny that Steven McPherson will be a new “American Idol” judge.