Landgraf: TV a ‘Competition Between Two Channels’ #TCA15

Says FX, HBO lead the pack in quality
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Pasadena, Calif. -- FX Networks and FX Productions CEO John Landgraf made the case Sunday that FX leads all other cable networks besides HBO in critical reception. In his TCA winter press tour executive session, Landgraf presented charts breaking down critical top 10 lists that he said demonstrated that FX and HBO together make up roughly half the most critically acclaimed shows on television.

“This shows at the moment that the race for the best in TV is really only a competition between two channels, with all the others in the pack playing way behind the two leaders,” Landgraf said in his opening statement. He added, “I would submit if FX was previously considered part of a group of channels battling out for second place in a perceptual pecking order, the factual pecking order is now that HBO and FX are No. 1 and No. 2, and everyone else is in a pack battling it out for No. 3.”

Speaking to the network’s anthologies such as American Horror Story and Fargo, Landgraf said that the current trend in miniseries is an extension of “the revolution in television that was sparked by David Chase and by The Sopranos.” In the 22-episode-a-season broadcast model, networks "could make some good shows, but eventually everything started to seem repetitive.” That model, he said, was broken by “sprawling, novelistic sort of shows” like The Sopranos and The Wire. After FX began making its own series in that model, “I asked myself a different question. What if the innovation is that on some level, the length of the show should fit the optimum length of the story? What if instead of having an industry because writers had to write to a certain format that was dictated by the terms of business and the competitive environment and the desire to have a show that looks a certain way?”

He added, “I think the bottom line is that the minute you define what something has to be, you limit its quality.”

Louie, for instance, is scheduled to premiere an eight-episode season April 9.

Landgraf said, “Rather than saying, ‘Well, you must make 13, and they must be due on this date and we don’t care if they’re as good as the previous shows,’ we say, ‘Well, what will it take for you to recharge your batteries and make episodes that are as good as any that you made?’”

Other highlights from the panel included:

• Landgraf said that he thinks The Americans will be “at least five” seasons long. “I sure would like to see the Emmys finally sit up and take notice. I think that would be really helpful for the show, for the longevity of the show.”

• Asked about cancelation of drama The Bridge, Landgraf cited its ratings performance. “By the time you get all the DVR numbers in, all the VOD numbers in, all the EST and video and every single source of viewership, if not only it’s not particularly strong, but it’s still falling after 26 episodes, well, you have to say, maybe as much as I love it, maybe it doesn’t have a place on our schedule.”

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