Press Tour 2012 Live-Blog: FX Executive Session with John Landgraf

BEVERLY HILLS – Because FX is always good at filling our Television Critics Association press tour days with news and content, I’m always happy to treat John Landgraf’s executive sessions the same way I would treat a network executive session. I can’t say the same for most cable execs.

Click through to see what Landgraf had to say about the network’s Charlie Sheen experiment and any other topics of relevant conversation…

8:32 a.m. As previously announced, “Sons of Anarchy” will return on September 11. “American Horror Story,” “The League” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” will be back in October.

8:32 a.m. Landgraf is happy with the network’s recent performance. Everything is up. 

8:33 a.m. FX isn’t going to make a decision on the back-90 for “Anger Management.” But if the Back-90 is picked up, Martin Sheen will join the cast as a regular.

8:34 a.m. “Louie” has been renewed for a fourth season. WOOT! No announcement on “Wilfred” but Landgraf is “very optimistic.” There’s also no pickup for “The Americans,” starring Keri Russell, but he’s positive on the pilot.

8:35 a.m. FX is ordering a pilot  for “The Bridge” based on the Danish format.

8:36 a.m. FX has also ordered seven more episodes of “BrandX with Russell Brand” to premiere in the fall along with “Sunny” and “The League.” Landgraf is happy with the show’s creative growth, but he promises there will be creative changes.

8:37 a.m. Lastly: Landgraf wants the producers of streaming shows to come up with a meaningful apples-to-apples way of announcing the show’s ratings. He wants “fair benchmarking.” Heh. Landgraf wants to go to war with Netflix.

8:39 a.m. Landgraf stands by calling “American Horror Story” a miniseries. “No, I wasn’t surprised,” he says of the categorization. He tells us what we already knew: The second season of “AHS” takes place in the ’60s in New England at a sanitarium run by the Catholic Church. He calls it “unbelievably scary.”

8:40 a.m. Landgraf thinks “Wilfred” has “a many-year future on the network.” They still have some “deal issues to work out.” Regarding “Justified,” he predicts a run of “at minimum six seasons.”

8:41 a.m. He would love to find another Louis C.K. to do a “Louie”-esque shows. The network has gotten calls from a number of people thinking they could do something similar. He references that Jim Jeffries of “Legit” is a writer and actor, but he’s not a filmmaker, so they have a team of three people doing the job that Louis CK does by himself. “‘Louie’ is great because Louis is great, but it’s also great because it’s a completely unvarnished show,” he says.

8:43 a.m. What’s the story with “Powers”? Chick Eglee is still doing the rewrite and he’s written future episodes as well with a staff. If they elect to move forward, they’ll start from scratch. “I think there’s a possibility that some original cast members may return,” Landgraf says, referencing that Jason Patric wants to look at those future scripts.

8:44 a.m. FX is hoping to launch two more dramas in the next year and he hopes the network can get to six or seven dramas on the air. The network’s goal has been to concentrate on comedy for a couple years. “Now we’re turning back to drama. I’m excited about that,” he says. Currently FX only has three dramas. So… That’s a lot of work. The late-night business is also a priority, though it will take “patience and stead-fastness.”

8:46 a.m. FX has a big war-chest for theatrical releases and off-network pick-ups, but the network wants to be “masters of our own fate,” rather than bidding up the cost on networks. It’s easier to be masters with movies than with off-network shows. 

8:50 a.m. Is Landgraf happy with “Anger Managment” creatively? And why isn’t FX picking up the back-90 now? Landgraf says that he is, indeed, happy with the creative direction of the show. He’s excited that Martin Sheen’s addition will make it “a multi-generational family show.” He promises “Anger Management” will still deal with Charlie’s relationships and his patients. “As with any comedy, I think it has more growth in it creatively,” he says. He knows that we didn’t love it, but he thinks our mistake was in comparing it to other FX comedies. “But with due respect, I think it’s fair comparison is really to ‘Two and a Half Men’ and ‘Two Broke Girls’ and ‘Mike & Molly’ and other multi-camera shows,” he says. The lack of pickup is based on FX’s conservative nature. He calls the odds “overwhelming” that it will be renewed.

8:53 a.m. FX is really unhappy with the numbers Netflix is giving people. “Look, Netflix could tell you how many people watch each episode of ‘Lillyhammer’ if they wanted to,” Landgraf argues. “They have more data than we do,” Landgraf says. He wants us to demand “apples to apples” comparison to find out how many people watched shows in their totality on average. “There’s a little bit fuzziness in the math of some of what’s going on,” Landgraf gripes, saying that if Netflix and Hulu are going to be at TCA, they should be giving us real numbers.

8:55 a.m. “I don’t know if there is a better way… I wish there were a better way,” Landgraf says of ways to prevent the recent DirecTV fracas. He observes that 95 percent of the time, the system doesn’t break down, but sometimes it does.

8:58 a.m. A reporter points out that Netflix isn’t in an apples-to-apples business with FX. Landgraf reframes it by saying that we should want accurate ratings as a service to our readers. He thinks it helps us. He keeps insisting he has enormous respect for Netflix, but he has no idea how many people watch pieces of Netflix programming. “They have a different business model, but there’s something in common to everybody’s business model, which is that we all want to develop hit programming.” Landgraf says.

9:01 a.m. Has FX had situations where they felt that creative freedom went too far? Landgraf says he’s had big fights with Ryan Murphy on “Nip/Tuck.” He says he’s not going to substitute his taste or aesthetic judgment for that of the showrunner. He also says he had massive fights with the “Rescue Me” on the controversial rape and admits that seven years on, today, he might specifically prevent the “Rescue Me” guys from doing that scene. He references at least one “Louie” episode that had to be trimmed. “We just have this inherent inclination towards letting people make their shows,” he says. He wants FX shows to feel hand-crafted, rather than like something from a factory or IKEA.

9:06 a.m. Landgraf thinks that FX could get to 20 original shows plausibly, but the network has no aspiration to fill primetime with all-owned-and-original programming. 

9:07 a.m. Why don’t Emmy voters like “Sons of Anarchy”? “The show is grungy and blue collar and violent and profane sometimes, although you might say that ‘Breaking Bad’ has those qualities too. I just think Emmy voters don’t like it that much,” Landgraf says. “I don’t see the Emmys, at this point, giving it any recognition.”

9:08 a.m. Landgraf wants to have programming to have balance between comedy. Comedy is cheaper. We know this. He references the “arms race” to make expensive dramas on cable, with HBO shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Boardwalk Empire” leading the way. FX dramas are losing money on an advertising basis. “I want us to always be active in both genres,” he says.

That’s all, folks…