FX Boss John Landgraf on AMC's 'Walking Dead' Saga: 'We've Never Fired a Showrunner'
The FX Networks president used his platform at the TCA press tour to discuss violence, Netflix and the future of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and Charlie Sheen's "Anger Management."
FX Networks president John Landgraf was back Wednesday for his semi-annual master class in television.
He kicked off his panel at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena with a lecture of sorts on the role of violence on television, for which he noted that he'd like to see more studies done on whether a correlation exists between violence on screen and off -- and if such studies find that there is indeed a link, act on it. "We should look at ourselves," he explained. "But we should also look at [gun laws] which allow a crazy person to create an untold amount of mayhem."
Additionally, Landgraf used his perch before the press to touch on a series of other topics, from AMC's latest round of showrunner troubles on The Walking Dead to FX's historical dependence on men. Here's a look at some of the highlights.
AMC, This Is Not
Unlike AMC, which recently canned its showrunner for the second time in Walking Dead's three-season run, Landgraf touts the fact that his network has never fired a showrunner. Much the opposite, Landgraf has famously good relationships with his showrunners, a lot that includes big personalities including American Horror Story’s Ryan Murphy to Sons of Anarchy’s Kurt Sutter. “The most important thing that I or anyone at my company do is establish a trusting, productive, collaborative relationship with creative people,” he explained, noting that such relationships should not be -- nor are they, in FX’s case -- without arguments or conflict.
Still, he is emphatic that FX’s brand of serialized dramas are not “plug and play” but rather “90-hour movies” and “the author needs to complete the journey,” which is why he says his network tries extremely hard to keep the same folks at the helm throughout the process. Although Landgraf is careful not to comment specifically on the behind-the-scenes happenings at rival Walking Dead, he suggests that “AMC managed to make a successful transition from Frank Darabont to Glen [Mazzara, but] it remains to be seen whether they can do that again."
Calling All Ladies
Historically, FX has been a male-centric network, and there's good reason for it, according to Landgraf. "Women are the primary target of drama producing networks, and have been for 50 or 60 years," he said, adding that women are therefore "not underserved." That said, Landgraf doesn't think FX should be viewed "a male brand or female brand," just as premium-cable rivals Showtime or HBO aren't described as one or the other. He said he's hopeful that upcoming drama The Americans and likely pickup The Bridge will draw more women in with their female leads -- Keri Russell and Diane Kruger, respectively -- before confessing, "I'm just getting a little tired of male anti-heroes, to tell you the truth."
Show Me the Data!
Asked whether the Netflix model of releasing all of its episodes at once will make FX reconsider putting more of his fare OnDemand, he noted that his partners (Time Warner, Comcast, Dish, etc.) are very interested in making more episodes available in the VOD space. "There's a bit of a tug of war going on in the industry right now between the people that ultimately are most significantly involved in paying for the programming … and the aftermarket users -- i.e. the Netflixes and others -- who don't pay for the creation but buy it basically for more of a syndicated model," he explained. As for the allure of the “Netflix model,” he claimed he has no plans to follow it until he has proof that it actually works, which set him off on a familiar rant about his desire to see the Netflixes of the world cough up some viewership figures. "If [Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos] doesn't release comparable data [in the form of average viewers], how will you determine whether something is a hit?" he snipped. "I have to see the data that proves that you can create a hit that way, and I'm dubious right now that that industry is ever going to release the data because I think they like the fact that they don't have to have a report card. … I think report cards are good because they keep you honest. They let you know if you're getting an A, B or C. And if you want to be a better student, get a grade."
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Sunny Outlook
The long-running, low-budget comedy already has been picked up for a ninth season, and Landgraf suggests there probably will be a tenth. That's assuming the producers have more stories to tell, and the audience remains hungry for it.
Anger Management In Overdrive
His big bet on Charlie Sheen will continue Jan. 17, when the half-hour comedy Anger Management will launch the remaining 90 episodes of its hefty order. According to Landgraf, it'll stay on the air largely without interruption at 9 p.m. Thursdays for two years. Although the show is not expected to change much from its original 10-episode run, Landgraf noted that it will become more of a multigenerational family story with Martin Sheen joining the show in a more regular role as Charlie's father.
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