Ryan Murphy, Shawn Ryan Toast FX at Paley Center Honors

John Landgraf
John Landgraf
 

The Paley Center for Media honored FX Networks on Wednesday with a star-studded event that showcased the cable network's critically acclaimed catalog of hits, including The Shield, Sons of Anarchy and American Horror Story.

The evening -- during which FX was awarded the Paley prize for Innovation & Excellence -- drew high-profile News Corp. names, such as Rupert Murdoch, Chase Carey, Peter Rice, Dana Walden and Gary Newman, among others. Joining them was an impressive collection of FX talent, with the casts of The League, Archer, American Horror Story: Coven and Justified mingling with that of The Shield, the Shawn Ryan cop drama that put FX on the map. (Louie and The Americans were both in production in New York, while much of Kurt Sutter's Sons of Anarchy talent was busy shooting.)

Aisha Tyler (Archer), Paul Scheer (The League), Kathy Bates (Coven) and Walton Goggins (Justified) took turns at the dais to honor their boss, John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks. Bates, who with co-star Angela Bassett flew out from the New Orleans set of Coven for the event, used the platform to highlight the quality of the actors as well as the writers lured to the suite of networks, which has garnered 64 Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and 14 wins.

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"John Landgraf is the unique television executive who believes the creative drives the business rather than the reverse. I don't know of anyone who in his position who is more supportive of artists, who respects them, demands of them their best work and then gives them every resource they need to achieve it than John does," Ryan said in introducing the executive. "There is a trust with him because he possesses something that can occasionally be hard to find in this town, honestly. I know many people suspect John is the smartest guy in TV, but I know, without question, he is the most honest guy in the business."

He continued: "FX, under his leadership doesn't just have a brain. It has a heart and soul and for that reason he is my nominee to be the first-ever mayor of television. I hope you get that job one day." In touting Landgraf's strengths, Ryan pointed to a mix of critical and commercial triumphs, including leading the network to new heights in viewership, creating FX Productions and more than tripling its original programming output. He wrapped up his time on stage by joking that a notes call with Landgraf can last as long 45 minutes, with references that can span from The Rockford Files to King Lear.

The evening event included a two-song performance by Sons star Katey Sagal and her band, the Forest Rangers, as well as opening remarks by Coven co-creator Ryan Murphy, who recently was honored with the Paley Center's Icon Award. Murphy noted that FX Networks is donating complete scenes of many of its original programming to form a special FX Legacy Collection within the Paley Center's archive. The hourlong program featured clips from several shows currently on FX's schedule as well as in the network's library, including Terriers and Damages. The outdoor event space on 20th Century Fox lot was adorned with posters from many of the series as well.

Said Landgraf of the Paley honor: "Through the power of story, we're each able to move beyond the myopic limits of our individual lives and to touch the entire breadth of the viewing experience. While most of us don't love every image that enters our homes through the medium of television, all of us love and have been profoundly touched by many things that TV has had to offer."

The accolade comes as Landraf approaches his decade mark with the network group, which added comedy net FXX in September. He joined the News Corp.-owned cable network as president of entertainment in early 2004, when Shield and Murphy's Nip/Tuck were early in their collective runs. He brought with him experience as a producer (as president of Jersey Television with Danny DeVito) and, before that, as a network executive at NBC during The West Wing and Friends era. In the nine years since, Landgraf, a known risk-taker who has risen to the role of CEO, has overseen an expansive portfolio that ranges from gritty drama Sons to raw comedy Louie.

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