TCA: At a Turning Point, FX Dives Into Comedy

John Landgraf discusses his strategy for guiding FX beyond its aging shows

Last Updated: August 5, 2011 @ 3:28 PM

Eight years after FX carved out a presence in cable's original programming landscape with "The Shield," the network finds itself at a turning point, in need new series to feed its own rapid growth and replace its aging shows.

At the annual TCA summer press tour Tuesday, John Landgraf, president and general manager of FX, outlined his ongoing programming strategy, which includes two new series — the boxing drama "Lights Out" and a private-eye dramedy "Terriers" — and a deep expansion into comedy.

(He also addressed the perception that Emmy voters were unkind to FX this year, suggesting the networks' characters are a little too rough around the edges for their taste. More on that in a bit.)

Landgraf said FX, which only had one comedy last year, will have five by next year, including a renewal of the freshman sitcom "Louie" and the launch of "U.S.S. Alabama," a sci-fi comedy from the creators of "Reno 911."

Though Landgraf touted "The Shield," "Nip/Tuck" and "Rescue Me" as trailblazers for the network's current lineup — including the biker drama "Sons of Anarchy," FX's highest-rated original series ever — Leary's dysfunctional firefighter drama is the only among its pioneering trio of original series that's still with the network.

And it's set to end next year after its seventh season.

"Rescue Me's" impending departure isn't the only major change going down at FX. In July, DirecTV announced a deal to pick up the legal drama "Damages" after low ratings pushed it to the brink of cancellation on FX.

"Damages" was the only FX show that got strong recognition from Emmy voters this year; it was responsible for five of the network's nine Emmy nominations, including all but one of FX's nods in major acting and creative categories.

"I think the Emmys have been really good to FX overall — and this year not so much," Langraf said.

Landgraf dismissed concerns that the departure of "Damages" leaves FX without a marquee critical success.

"Emmys live in their own separate universe we had last year … 'Rescue Me,' 'Justified,' Damages' and 'Sons of Anarchy' all achieved universal acclaim in terms of their metacritic scores. 'Sons of Anarchy was as acclaimed as any show on television, but none of them aside from 'Damages' got any Emmy recognition. I don't know why that is," Landgraf said.

Landgraf does have one theory about FX's lack of Emmy love, he suggested it may be due to the fact that, apart from "Damages," the network's shows don't feature "wealthy and well-coiffed" characters.

"If you look at FX as a whole, we have a tendency to want to do literature of the common woman and literature of the common man … if you look at 'Sons of Anarchy,'" Landgraf said, "I don't think there'd be a lesson in personal grooming."

Previously: FX Doubles Down on 'Louie'