FX's John Landgraf on The Bridge's Demise, What to Expect from Fargo Season 2, and More

In 2014, FX said goodbye to its flagship series Sons of Anarchy and debuted Noah Hawley's Fargo, which went on to become one of the most critically acclaimed dramas of the year. And according to a fancy pie chart revealed to reporters during the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Sunday, the network's original series appeared 213 times on critics' best-of-the-year lists, with only HBO earning more mentions (the premium cable channel netted 250). 


CEO of FX Networks and FX Productions John Landgraf was quick to point out during his executive session that no other network came close—third-place AMC garnered just 74 entries—declaring, "We're not really a channel that's trying to be the highest-rated channel in television. We're trying as hard as we possibly can to be the best channel in television."

Here's what else he had to say...


On what's coming down the pike:

Sons of Anarchy might be over, but the network is still in business with the biker drama's creator, Kurt Sutter. The pilot for his new project, The Bastard Executioner, which Landgraf said will "reinvent the knight and sword genre," is currently in production. The series will likely debut on FX in the fall.

FX has also greenlit a new pilot called Better Things, which stars and was co-written by Louie's Pamela Adlon and Louis C.K. The network's previously announced clown comedy Baskets, starring Zach Galifianakis, will debut in 2016.


On what to expect in Fargo's second season:

Landgraf said that Season 2 is more comedic than Season 1, but still very serious at times. He called it "big, sprawling, [and] incredibly ambitious," noting that he's loved the scripts he's seen. 

As you may recall, Fargo Season 2 will be set in 1979 and feature a younger Lou SolversonPatrick Wilson will star, putting a more youthful face on the role originated by Keith Carradine in Season 1. The new story will begin a few years after Lou has returned from the Vietnam War, and will be set against the backdrop of Ronald Reagan's first campaign for president. Reagan will actually be featured as character, and focus on "some of the movies he's reputed to have made." Season 2 will also focus on feminism and the cultural transformation that was taking place in America at the time. 



On the network's decision to demolish The Bridge:

FX canceled the drama after a creatively rich second season, and while Landgraf said he was very happy with the risks that showrunner Elwood Reid took in Season 2, the show ultimately got the axe because it on a "relentlessly downward trajectory" in the ratings. 

Landgraf went on to explain that The Bridge faced challenges early on because it was based on a serial killer format and FX wanted a complex character drama set on the U.S./Mexico border, which is why the serial killer element was eventually jettisoned. He also noted that FX will often renew shows it believes in for a second season, but if the ratings aren't there by the end of that second season, it just doesn't make sense to keep them around: "We ignore [ratings] for a long time, but by the time you get all the DVR numbers in and you get all the VOD numbers in ... if not only it's not particularly strong, but it's still falling after 26 episodes, you have to say, 'Maybe as much as I love it, it just doesn't have a place on our schedule.'"

Landgraf continued: "I had a lot of regrets about not renewing that show because I really care about it. ... It was a great cast and it was a subject material I wanted to pursue. It brought diversity and difference to our channel, but at the end of the day you have to also pay some attention to ratings." 



On Louie's shortened fifth season:

Louie Season 5 will run for eight episodes (one more than the previously announced seven-episode order, because Louis C.K. told Landgraf he needed it) and debut in April alongside new comedy The Comedians. "[Louis C.K.'s] got a very dynamic, professional, and creative life now," Landgraf said, admitting that the comedian was burnt out after Season 4 and the network is trying to give him as much flexibility as they can. "He wants to keep making the show, but he's trying to [juggle] the intense process of writing, producing, directing, editing, and starring in the show. He needed time to recharge his batteries."


On the future of The Americans:

As previously announced, The Americans' third season premieres Wednesday, January 28 at 10pm. When asked how long he thought the show could continue, Landgraf said, "I think it'll be at least five [seasons]." Of course, continued renewals will depend on ratings and whether or not the show continues to operate at the same level of quality as the first two seasons.



On how FXX is doing and which shows belong in its lineup: 

Sophomore comedy You're the Worst will move to FXX this summer, giving the network a comedy lineup of It's Always Sunny in PhiladelphiaThe League, You're the Worst, and the just-launched Man Seeking Woman. According to Landgraf, FXX's ratings were up nearly 70 percent in 2014 thanks to its epic 12-day The Simpsons marathon, which aired in August. The network also enjoyed a 146 percent gain in the 18-to-49 demographic, but is still experimenting with what type of programming belongs on FX versus FXX. "It's going to take time to get every show positioned on the channel it should be on within the sub-brand," Landgraf said. 


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Jan 19, 2015
I would say FX is now one of the best network around. It is giving HBO a good fight !
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Jan 19, 2015
Once cable TV gets all the viewers it will be the death of TV for me. It's a sad thing when everyone just wants graphic violence and uncensored sex in EVERY damn show. It has nothing to do with quality, because there are good shows on the other networks too.
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Jan 19, 2015
Landgraf - one of the best network CEOs out there. Clearly takes a close interest in the shows he airs, gives shows a chance to find its ground and actually cares about quality. Sounds too good to be true.
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Jan 19, 2015
Couple things of note...

1. The Bridge, IMO, will remain in my top 10 list of most under appreciated shows for a LONG time. It's a shame it didn't get more support.

2. FX is KILLING IT! CBS, NBC, Fox and in particular the laughable ABC REALLY need to start paying attention to what the premium cable channels are doing. As irrelevate as they've been the past few years, that trend is only becoming more and more obvious.
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Jan 19, 2015
Five seasons for The Americans feels about right. The Americans doesn't feel like a show that should go on for very long.
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Jan 18, 2015
I am concerned for this network. They don't have anything to replace Justified with and the mere fact that they haven't locked down Olyphant and Goggins down for another series lends to that belief.

My dislike for Sutter aside, his new project just doesn't sound compelling. We have GoT, Vikings, Black Sails and probably a few more of period type pieces that probably will do better. Maybe if they lock him to a set number of seasons he will have a better run than with SOA. But it is going to have to go at least 2 seasons of top notch reviews from people on here that I trust their opinion to get me to watch him again.

Giving Murphy a new show isn't a good idea either. This is going to be what two seasons in a row of a lackluster AHS, even by fanboy standards. That doesn't bode well.
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Jan 19, 2015
Ugh, I just wrote a long response and it didn't fucking save! I'll just write the short version.

Sutter did plan seven seasons from the beginning of SoA, and I can think he tried to make the best season he could on four of them, but he was only successful on the first two. He dragged things out on season 3 with the Irish, and he ruined season 4 with the whole "Clay" thing. Everything else was dragged out after to get to the point of Jax dying at the end. Sometimes, knowing how long you want a show to run can hurt you, like it did Lost. Breaking Bad made things up as they went along, but so did True Blood. I think it's all a testament of just how great the writers of the shows are. And I don't think Sutter and his team were all that great, and they used all their creative juice early on.

I'm not sure if six seasons was the plan for Justified, but they did know they always wanted to end with Boyd versus Raylan. The difference between SoA and Justified is that Justified managed to stay good and compelling throughout most of it's run and it never felt like they were dragging things out with shock tv or "oooh aaaah" moments just to get to a point at the end of the season. I'm referring to seasons 2 - 4 of course, not the awful season 5, which was the only season that felt like a filler season, which is probably because that's exactly what it was. Speaking of, I've heard great things about the sixth and final season of Justified. Critics I trust say it's already way better than last season, which isn't exactly a hard thing to do, but it's great to hear it's on the right track. I'm hoping it has a final season that doesn't suck, or a season that is weaker compared to the other great seasons. Only three shows I can think of had truly great final seasons; The Shield, Spartacus, and Breaking Bad.

Also, any idea by Ryan Murphy is a bad one. He can't even get his shows off to a decent start anymore, they all jump the shark the moment they begin.
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Jan 19, 2015
*or a season that isn't weaker
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Jan 18, 2015
Well I'm not a big fan either but Katey Sagal is one-of-a -kind so Sutter must have something going for him. No Vince Gilligan by a long shot but I'll give his next project a look.

I can't figure out what went wrong with Bridge - it seemed to me to have all the ingredients I expect from a FX drama but just couldn't get enough traction.

Americans will be the undisputed flagship after Justified ends - so far the future looks promising for it...
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Jan 18, 2015
Loved The Bridge and would have happily kept watching it :(
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Jan 19, 2015
Agreed, I personally hate watching shows that use the same recipe season after season. The Bridge was one of those shows that took you right out of your comfort zone, but in a morbidly fascinating way.

Diane Kruger was such fun to watch.
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Jan 18, 2015
Mmm... PIE!!!
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