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FX Staying True to Its Racy Roots

President John Landgraf: “We’ve never put an original show on the air that wasn’t TV-MA.”

Like a number of other basic cable networks involved in original scripted programming, FX is in expansion mode.


The network is currently readying two greenlit series, including the Elmore Leonard-adapted drama “Lawman” and the half-hour animated comedy “Archer,” both of which were showcased Friday at TCA.


FX also has its most active development slate going with six pilots, divided evenly between dramas and comedies. Among them are a newly announced comedy project starring Louis C.K., fantasy-sports comedy “The League” from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” executive producer Jeff Schaffer, and pro boxing drama “Lights Out,” starring “In Treatment’s” Warren Leight as a washed-up heavyweight.


While the network is not unique among basic-cable channels in terms of growing its original programming slate — TNT, for example, has unfurled into three nights a week of original shows this summer — FX’s gritty, male-skewing brand does present unique challenges.


“We’ve never put an original show on the air that wasn’t TV-MA,” said FX president John Landgraf, whose executive session at TCA Friday was followed by a brief clip for “Archer,” which featured the cartoon series’ two leads in post-coital embrace, pondering whether or not to watch “some interracial porn.”


These programs serve a unique audience target for FX, which is younger and more male than, say, the more broader-skewing USA Network. Unfortunately for FX, its shows can’t be programmed earlier than 10 p.m.


Earlier this summer, USA programmed hit spy drama “Burn Notice” at 9 p.m., so that its audience would be lead into “Royal Pains,” a new series with a similar demographic target. The launch was successful, and “Royal Pains” was picked up for a second season.


Meanwhile, FX’s established shows — which include biker drama “Sons of Anarchy” and lawyer show “Damages” starring Emmy winner Glenn Close — are too adult-themed to run at 9 p.m. The channel mainly relies on the less predictable commodity of feature films to lead into its originals at 10 o’clock.


“If you look at ‘Burn Notice,’ more or less, it delivers the same audience every week,” Landgraf explained. “We have a phenomenal lineup of movies, but the audience is different each week… We would give up our left arm to have a show that could prop up another drama, but we never did it, because we wouldn’t put it on at nine.”


For his part, Landgraf believes FX’s programming has the reputation for being more violent and sexually charged than it actually is. For example, the regular brutality found in series like “Sons of Anarchy” tends to be only alluded to and not graphic, and the network shies away from the F-word and other funny names.


Still, he concedes his network’s shows belong at 10 p.m., and he has no plans on changing the programming strategy.


I really think that between Nickelodeon and ABC Family and the Disney Channel, and USA and TNT, there’s plenty of family programming for family, and we’re a place for programming that’s right for when you put the kids to bed. We know who we are, and we’re going to stick with our knitting.”