FX Chief John Landgraf on Disney Optimism, 'American Crime Story's' Future

The veteran exec also explains what was behind the change in showrunners on the cabler's 'Y: The Last Man' adaptation.
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John Landgraf

FX Networks CEO John Landgraf has been a Disney employee for just a couple of months, but he likes what he's experienced thus far.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday as part of Disney's combined TV upfront, the exec discussed what becoming part of Disney — FX was included in the company's $71.3 billion deal with 21st Century Fox — might mean for the network's future. He also said that American Crime Story is developing several possible topics for future seasons and explained the reasoning behind changing showrunners on its comic-book adaptation Y.

Landgraf said he's excited at the prospect of having extra resources at hand now that FX is part of Disney. "I'm more optimistic than I've ever been that our best days are in front of us, not behind us," said the exec.

That comes in part from FX programming having a sizable streaming outlet in Hulu, over which Disney is taking full operational control, rather than trying to go it alone against behemoths like Netflix and Amazon.

"The possibilities of a platform like Hulu, which has so many more subscribers [than FX's stand-alone service] is much more exciting than trying to scale up on our own," said Landgraf.

The increased reach and growth prospects in SVOD may also allow for more resources to make original programming, which Landgraf says is a goal of his.

"I don't think 15 shows is enough to be a brand continuously in the conversation about what's best in television," he said. "I want more at-bats."

Just not too many: "I don't want to expand too far the curatorial quality of the brand," he said. "That's what gives it weight."

The Ryan Murphy-produced American Crime Story last aired in early 2018, and a third season hasn't been announced. Once it is, however, future installments may come more quickly.

Landgraf said FX is developing four different potential stories for the series via books or other rights the network has optioned. It remains to be seen which one will come first.

"There's obviously plenty of true-crime storytelling in the market now. It's a ubiquitous form. The two we've made so far [The People v. O.J. Simpson and The Assassination of Gianni Versace], there's a really elevated ambition to how we want to bring these stories to market," said the exec. "That starts with writing, depth and nuance and meaning of the crime story in a larger context. … It's a very challenging franchise to develop."

Murphy previously considered a season about Monica Lewinsky before having second thoughts. A planned story centered on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina also was scrapped.

On the plus side, doing simultaneous development on the four projects might mean there's less time between seasons in the future. "We may be able to do two, three, four seasons in a row," said Landgraf. "We really like the stuff we have in development. We're excited about the prospects there."

Another Murphy-produced anthology, Feud, remains stalled. Landgraf said Murphy — who is now based at Netflix after signing a huge deal with the streamer but remains involved in series created under his old deal at 20th TV — hasn't yet found an idea he's excited about exploring. A previously announced second season about England's Prince Charles and Princess Diana fell by the wayside.

As for Y, which parted ways with showrunners Aida Croal and Michael Green last month, Landgraf chalked the move up to the "perennial creative differences."

"It was one of those things that are really, really rare for FX," he said. "We have really passionate gifted showrunners." FX and executive producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson, however, "just had a really different point of view" about the adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan's comic Y: The Last Man than Croal and Green did.

FX has had conversations with potential new showrunners but hasn't signed any deals yet.

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