Press Tour Live-Blog: FX Executive Session with John Landgraf
Usually FX panels for the Television Critics Associations are love-fests, but Saturday (January 15) morning's panel with FX President John Landgraf could take on a different tone, with the quick cancellation of "Terriers" and a disappointing premiere for "Lights Out."
Click through for the full discussion...
9:33 a.m. The first big piece of news is that FX is in negotiations with the team behind "The League" to return as showrunners for a possible third season which will be ordered when negotiations are concluded.
9:33 a.m. Landgraf admits that the ratings for "Lights Out" were disappointing, but he remains hopeful that the show will find an audience. As he would be.
9:34 a.m. "Wilfred" will be paired on Thursdays this summer with "Louie," which will move from 11 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. for its second season.
9:36 a.m. Question time. The first questioner thanks John Landgraf for doing a cancellation conference call for "Terriers" and asks if he'll handle future cancellations in the same way. Landgraf says that he thought the fans of "Terriers" deserved a clear explanation and for reporters, as representatives of fans, to be able to question the decision. He doesn't know why other networks don't do the same thing. [Probably because they cancel more stuff and would spend their whole lives doing cancellation calls.] He says that he's been doing this long enough that he's confident enough to explain his decisions.
9:38 a.m. Why was the "Lights Out" launch so soft? "Maybe we should have made a show about a zombie or a sexy vampire who's trying to regain the heavyweight championship of the world," Landgraf says, almost ruefully. On a more serious note, he says that the marketplace was too full -- 52 original shows premiering in January and February on cable and networks, many new. "It's obviously an intensely crowded field." He says, Comparing it to the movie marketplace, he says, "It really doesn't matter if your movie's good." He specifically references "The Game," "Tosh.0" and "16 and Pregnant" for taking away different segments of the demo on the premiere night. He says the question isn't whether the shows are good, but whether they're the first choice of the marketplace.
9:42 a.m. Landgraf seems to suggest that under some circumstances, FX could consider moving a hit to 9 p.m. so that FX could have a better launching pad for future 10 p.m. dramas.
9:44 a.m. Did viewers confuse "Lights Out" with "The Fighter"? Landgraf says he'd have to do a lot of research into the disappoint of the premiere, the kind of research he did on "Terriers." He says, however, that he doesn't anticipate doing that sort of research into "Lights Out." He points out that there's never been a successful TV series about boxing and it might have been a bad thing that there's a successful boxing movie in theaters now.
9:46 a.m. Is FX getting different sorts of scripts, things that aren't being offers to any other network? Landgraf says that broadcast networks often get into bidding wars with other networks, but that FX is rarely bidding against Showtime and HBO and AMC. He cites "Dexter" and "Walking Dead" as shows on other networks that could have been hits on FX. He uses an amusing drug study reference to explain why viewers are more patient with shows on HBO or Showtime, something about how people get more satisfaction from things they pay more money for.
9:49 a.m. What's the most important trait for a network boss? Landgraf says it's a combination of toughness and compassion. Landgraf says that like TV critics, network chiefs get jaded. Viewers, he says, just want networks to come to them with something great.
9:50 a.m. What's happening with "Powers"? Landgraf is very excited about it, noting that adapting a graphic novel into a TV show is tough. He says "Powers" is a different show than "Walking Dead" and they're on their third writer. Naturally, the most recent writer is a "Walking Dead" alum.
9:52 a.m. "I think there's always been a disconnect, unfortunately, between audience interest and critical acclaim," Landgraf admits. He says that the problem is that we're rarely unanimous and that we rarely stand up on a table to declare our positions. He says that critics have taken "Mad Men" from "a dismal failure to ratings mediocrity." ZING! He tells us that viewers want something different more than they necessarily want something good.
9:54 a.m. Landgraf says that the network went 6-for-6 in terms of *good* shows, but that despite "Terriers" and "Lights Out," he's not discouraged. He promises the next batch of projects will include some big successes. "We don't win 'em all, but we've got a good batting average," Landgraf says.
9:55 a.m. Landgraf likes "Wilfred." He praises its heart. I liked "Wilfred." On Twitter, I said it was "Fight Club" if Brad Pitt were a dude in a dog suit and Ed Norton were Frodo.
9:57 a.m. What did Landgraf think of the most recent "Sons of Anarchy" season? Well, he read Sepinwall and thought some of his criticisms were valid. He says the story was sprawling and that it played better the way he watched the show -- the way people watch shows on DVD -- some of the criticisms will be valid, but most won't. [Landgraf is wrong on this. I watched seven episodes in a weekend and the pacing wasn't improved in the slightest.] He calls "Sons" epic and says that it isn't a purely episodic show. He supports creator Kurt Sutter. He points out that the "Sons of Anarchy" audience was identical to last season. He says that "Sons" is a three-act structure and that we just finished Act I.
9:59 a.m. It's telling that we had almost no questions for Nina Tassler yesterday and we could probably talk to John Landgraf for another hour. Unfortunately, we're done...
On to Louis C.K...