John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks & FX Productions, addressed a number of topics during FX’s executive panel at the Television Critics Association press tour Monday, including the newly renewed “Fargo,” the new Guillermo del Toro vampire drama “The Strain,” and the state of the FX offshoot network FXX.
Landgraf sought to distinguish “The Strain,” about an epidemiologist exploring a mysterious strain of vampirism, from the sparkly, sexy suckers of “Twilight,” et al.
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Prior to going forward with “The Strain,” Landgraf noted, there were “arguably way too many vampire shows” on the air, though they tended to focus on the romantic aspect and highly sexualized vampires.
The vamps of “The Strain,” on the other hand, are “disgusting, parasitic, awful, worm-bearing vampires.”
While championing the fact that, nearly a year after its launch, FXX is vastly outpacing its predecessor, Fox Soccer, Landgraf did acknowledge that it still lags behind its big-brother network.
“FX is significantly stronger than FXX, and that’s really to be expected,” Landgraf said, adding that part of the reason that FXX acquired the long-running animated comedy “The Simpsons” was to give the fledgling network substantial programming aside from originals.
Landgraf added that it’s going to “take a while for the two brands to shake out” in terms of which shows belong on FX and FXX, and said that the latter, which has so far been comedy-centric, will also bring dramas into the programming fold.
“Eventually we’re going to put dramas on” FXX, he said, saying that the inclusion of dramas would come “soon enough.”
The difficulty of launching a successful comedy was a big theme of Landgraf’s executive session. Landgraf cited the need to stand behind talent and push boundaries, noting, “We’re gonna push it in ways that make you uncomfortable at times, but I feel that’s our place in the ecosystem.”
One example of where the comedy strategy didn’t work: he FXX offering “Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell,” whose much-heralded late-night series was canceled after one season.
Landgraf dismissed the possibility that the late-night comedy offering would have fared better on FX.
“What I think is that the show wasn’t quite good enough, yet I think it was brilliant at times,” Landgraf said, suggesting that the series was “a shakeout cruise” that served as a learning process for Bell.
“I think [Bell] was good, but I think when you compare him to Jon Stewart,” Landgraf offered, adding, “He’ll get there.”
FX’s Coen brothers adaptation “Fargo,” which was renewed for a second season on Monday, was another topic of conversation. While the first season of the series featured heavy hitters such as Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman, the second season will feature an all-new cast. Admitting that the series “needed” Billy Bob Thornton for its first season, as his participation on the series “opened the floodgates” in terms of securing further talent, Landgraf said that the show could succeed without a marquee name for its sophomore run.
“I think it would be nice to have a movie star in the second cycle, but I don’t think we need it,” Landgraf said. “Frankly, I think we can do it with unknowns.”