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The renewal news comes as its creator and showrunner Kurt Sutter has inked a three-year overall deal with Twentieth Century Fox TV and FX Productions, which jointly produce the highest-rated series in FX history. As part of the pact, Sons has been officially renewed through season six, though those involved with the show assume a seventh and likely final season will be part of Sutter’s plan. What’s more, the deal allows the often outspoken showrunner to develop fare for both broadcast and cable, and includes a script deal with FX, where the former Shield writer is now the longest-tenured scribe.
Among the advantages, the pact gives Sutter the wherewithal to map out the series’ future on his own terms, rather than at the whim of Nielsen ratings. It’s a strategy that allowed past FX showrunners from The Shield’s Shawn Ryan to Rescue Me’s Peter Tolan and Denis Leary to present a coherent show from beginning to end, noted FX Network president John Landgraf, and the intention is that that level of certainty will be helpful creatively for Sutter as well.
“There’s a part of me that does see being able to tell this story in seven seasons, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to say, ‘That’s it,’ Sutter told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview Friday, noting that he’s aware of FX’s model and the idea that after seven seasons the overhead and above-the-line costs begin to exceed the profit value of a show. “I almost feel like when you hang that kind of finality and put a period on something, there’s almost a backlash that happens with the fan base.”
He continued, “If there’s more story to be told after seven seasons and if financially it’s still a feasible endeavor, I’m definitely open to doing more.” What Sutter isn’t particularly open to doing, nor does he think he’s equipped to do, is run multiple shows at once, as peers including Twentieth TV’s Ryan Murphy is currently doing with Fox’s Glee and FX’s American Horror Story.
The idea of working on several projects at once was one of many reasons Sutter has hesitated to ink an overall deal until now. “He’s been focused on his show and really didn’t want to think about other projects or anything that might distract him,” 20th TV chairman Dana Walden told THR of Sutter’s initial disinterest, noting that being able to lock him up creatively is “a major win” for both the studio and FX.
According to Sutter, there were other factors at play as well. Among them: he has liked the freedom he historically has had to dabble in the feature world during his hiatuses, as he did with the Eminem film Southpaw on the hiatus before last. Additionally, he had little interest in being tasked to run someone else’s show, as a writer-prodcer with an overall deal often is asked to do.
“A lot of overall deals enable studios to then put you where they feel you would best serve them, and not that that’s not a good thing and not that that hasn’t served other people well, I just know myself well enough to know that that’s probably not the thing for me,” noted Sutter. In his case, the pact ensures that such a scenario won’t happen, and that he will continue with his hit show.
To hear Landgraf tell it, FX wouldn’t have done it any other way. “We’re not in the Law & Order business. We’re not in the business of moving one showrunner out and another showrunner in,” he said, referencing the revolving door of writer-producers at the NBC franchise.
“We’re in the business of telling 90-hour movies,” he continued, adding that the network has never failed to make a deal with one of its successful showrunners, nor has one ever left a hit show at FX. And given the track record of Sons, Landgraf wasn’t about to make Sutter the exception. His biker gang drama, which wrapped its fourth season in December, lured an impressive 8.4 million total weekly viewers and 5.5 million in the coveted 18 to 49 demographic, according to Nielsen. The series’ two-part finale grew 22 percent over the season ender a year earlier.
Looking forward, Sutter will spend time looking at other projects to take on, either as a writer-producer or as just a producer. While he admits his “brand is in the cable world,” a commentary on the darker tonality of both The Shield and Sons, he isn’t opposed to trying his hand at broadcast. “Quite honestly,” Sutter acknowledged, “that box would almost be more of a creative challenge than anything else, so I’m definitely open to that.”
As for cable, Landgraf is keeping his door wide open to Sutter. “If Kurt wants to spend the rest of his career developing, creating and executive producing shows for FX, that would be fine by me,” said Landgraf, adding that he’d love to follow Sons with another Sutter show. “I think he’s just a really special, original thinker and storyteller. It’s hard to say whether our brand is Kurt Sutter, or he just really understands our brand.”
Sutter is repped by ICM and Gendler & Kelly.
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