FX’s CEO John Landgraf To Netflix: ‘Our Shows Are Better’

FX Networks CEO John Landgraf is widely regarded as one of the smartest and most innovative executives in television, so when he talks, people tend to listen. A few weeks ago, it was his comments about the television content bubble (“This is simply too much television”) that set off a firestorm of discussion. Now, he’s taking aim at Netflix, one of his emerging competitors in the realm of original programming, and he isn’t mincing many words. From The Hollywood Reporter:

“Netflix has made 14 shows,” Landgraf told [KCRW’s] The Business host Kim Masters, who is also editor-at-large at The Hollywood Reporter. “Take any 14 shows we’ve made — they’re better. Any 14 shows — on average, our shows are better.”

“By the way, they have made some great shows in that 14,” he continued. “I would be absolutely proud to have made and to program Orange Is the New Black. But the average quality of the shows they put out is not as good as ours, and I think that’s a lack of careful attention.”

First of all, with a little luck, these quotes will usher in an era of network, cable, and streaming executives taking shots at each others’ programming in the press like they’re cutting professional wrestling promos. Picture Les Moonves wearing a bandana and feather boa and calling out Rizzoli & Isles. We can dream.

But anyway, let’s take this to the scorecards. Here are the 14 original series Netflix has produced so far:

  • House of Cards
  • Hemlock Grove
  • Orange Is the New Black
  • Marco Polo
  • Bloodline
  • Daredevil
  • Between
  • Sense8
  • Club de Cuervos
  • Narcos
  • BoJack Horseman
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  • Grace and Frankie
  • Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp

When you compare that to FX (and FXX), two things jump out: One, the comedy category is a tighter race than you’d think. It’s a small sample size for Netflix, but its four comedies—BoJack HorsemanUnbreakable Kimmy SchmidtGrace and Frankie, and Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp—aren’t all that far off from FX’s top four. (Probably It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Louie, Archer, and either The League or You’re the Worst.) And if we’re using Landgraf’s rules of taking them “on average,” it means FX gets dragged down by stuff like Anger Management and Partners. Remember Partners?

Two, as far as dramas are concerned, it’s hard to argue with Landgraf, thanks mostly to a strong top tier of shows. As good as OINTB and Daredevil are, shows like The Shield, Justified, The Americans, Fargo, and the short-lived critical darlings Terriers and The Bridge tip the scales pretty convincingly, even with a few clunkers and semi-clunkers over the years.

So, the verdict: While it’s a little unfair to compare Netflix’s first 14 shows to FX’s decade-plus body of work, yup, John Landgraf’s story checks out.