[01/15/11 - 12:55 PM]
FX at TCA: Landgraf Wants More "League," Sets "Rescue Me" Finale
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- "We went six for six in terms of good shows getting critical acclaim; we've had two in a row that had weak premieres," said John Landgraf, FX's President and General Manager, about his track record of original series as of late. "We don't win them all but we've got a good batting average."

The network's executive session opened the final day of the TCA Winter Press Tour, in which Landgraf made a few announcements. "We're in negotiations with creators Jeff and Jackie Schaffer to continue as showrunners on 'The League' and we will be picking up a third season if those negotiations prove successful," he revealed. "And I'm optimistic about that."

Newcomer "Wilfred," starring Elijah Wood and Jason Gann, will launch on Thursday nights at 10:00/9:00c this summer - exact date to be announced - followed by the second season of "Louie," which previously aired on Tuesdays at 11:00/11:00c after "Rescue Me."

Speaking of the Denis Leary-led series, Landgraf revealed the show's series finale has been booked for Tuesday, September 6 - five days before the 10th anniversary of 9/11. With nine episodes yet to air, "Rescue Me" presumably will kick off its seventh and final season on Tuesday, July 12.

Going forward the network plans to order another new drama to roll out this fall alongside season four of "Sons of Anarchy," returning comedy "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and the aforementioned "The League."

As for the Q&A portion, here's a breakdown of the notable topics:

-- "I thought [critics and fans] deserved as clear an explanation as I could given them as to why it wasn't [renewed]," he said about his postmortem conference call regarding the cancellation of "Terriers." Adding that "eventually you get to the point where you're capable of embracing your failures... I think most programming executives are just fundamentally too insecure or too defensive to get to that point. And maybe I'm just old enough or have lived long enough that I can take that tag."

-- "As you might imagine, we were disappointed with the premiere ratings for 'Lights Out' but we do intend as always to run it as planned," the executive said about the drama's recent bow. "I can't tell you what's going to happen over the next 12 weeks. The truth of the matter is while 'Sons of Anarchy' had a much larger premiere than 'Lights Out,' I think when I see its ranking on all of FX's drama premieres it's in the bottom third or something [like that]. And yet [now] it's the highest rated show ever in the history of network. Premieres are very important but shows can also find audiences over time. We'll just have to see."

-- Landgraf indicated that he isn't opposed to running shows in the 9:00/8:00c hour ("maybe 'Justified' will become that, it very well might grow significantly in its second season").

-- When asked about competing with HBO and other pay networks for material, Landgraf said "there's a wealth of consumer data that shows there really is a difference between that which you pay a lot for and that which you don't," citing a study in the pharmaceutical drug industry in which people actually felt better - both physically and emotionally - when they paid more for a pill. "So if you think about how much people pay for HBO and how determined they are to prove to themselves that that was a good decision, they just give those shows more time. You can put a slow paced show on HBO, you can put a more slow starting show and people are going to give it four, five or six shots. I would say that's probably not the case [at FX]."

-- "I've really excited with what's going on with 'Powers' now," Landgraf said about the network's long-in-the-works adaptation of the comic series of the same name. "It's really hard I think to adapt a graphic novel into a successful television show. I realize [AMC] did it with 'Walking Dead,' at least in the first six episodes that they had on the air. But there have been very few successful, wholly successful adaptations." He added that they're on their third writer for the script, Charles Eglee, himself fresh off "The Walking Dead." "I've got nothing to announce, but I just think that project has a lot of momentum right now."

-- "I thought some of them were valid in the sense that the show was very sprawling," Landgraf said with regards to the criticisms of "Sons of Anarchy" this past season. "It was a challenge to follow it and it widened so wide in terms of the number of individual threads." He however noted that "I think if you watch that season from beginning to end as a mini-series and you could actually flow through it without [the weekly] pauses and breaks, you would find that it actually is an incredibly well-crafted, coherent season."

-- Landgraf went on to extol that "'Sons of Anarchy' is an epic. It's 'Hamlet.' And from my standpoint, although you're trying to satisfy the need of the audience to have a very satisfying, even riveting entertainment experience with every single episode, it's not truly an episodic show... it has to serve the needs of the whole chapter that is the [third] season and the whole epic itself. And in that context, [Kurt Sutter] had to tell a story. I just support Kurt's desire and need to reach and be ambitious and tell the story. I think it was the right story to tell for the third season... Seasons one, two and three of 'Sons of Anarchy' are Act One. The end of Act One was just concluded with the end of this 39th episode. And we're moving into Act Two of the saga."

-- Overall, Landgraf says the general disconnect between critical acclaim and ratings success isn't new to him. "Those rare circumstances where [the critics] have near unanimity... and are willing to say, stand up on a table and shout - 'This is the greatest show of all time!' - I think you guys can move the needle. But I think the reality is that you disagree with each other most of the time... and most of you don't feel you want to stand up on the table and shout, even if you like the show... You did it on 'Mad Men,' [which] has become by our analysis literally the most critically acclaimed series in the history of television. [You took it] from a dismal ratings failure to ratings mediocrity."

  [january 2011]  


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