By Valerie Milano
Pasadena, CA (The Hollywood Times) 1/5/18 – John Solberg introduced the FX Network executive session taking place at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena on Friday, January 5th, 2018 as part of the TCA Winter Press Tours. After some preliminary comments, Solberg welcomed John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks and FX Productions.
Landgraf began by mentioning MAYANS MC, Kurt Sutter’s follow-up to the hit series SONS OF ANARCHY. MAYANS MC features an almost entirely Latino cast, representing the FX belief that “hit television and diverse television can be two ways of describing the same thing.” MAYANS MC will debut in late summer or early fall right around the 10th anniversary of the series premiere of SONS.
Landgraf observed along with Charles Dickens in A TALE OF TWO CITIES that 2017 had been the best of times and worst of times. “Information technology and the Internet are rapidly transforming almost every aspect of our lives, some for better, some for worse. We’re much more connected in superficial ways, but more isolated in profound ones,” Landgraf said.
“Technology has made life more convenient but is slowly taking our jobs while simultaneously making us more entitled and lazy. Internet culture has elevated the voices of many people who deserve to be heard but is also elevating voices of many people who have nothing of value to say.
More than anything else, we now have the most powerful tool for distributing, selecting, and shaping information the world has ever known, but those who control it are not held to any firm standard of legal or moral accountability in return for the huge profits and power they derive,” continued Landgraf. “Instant gratification tends to make us grow down, while processing the frustration of delayed gratification tends to make us grow up! So only time will tell whether the Internet’s ultimate impact on society turns out to be positive.”
At its best, television can provide a context for compelling human stories about fascinating people such as Gianni Versace (AMERICAN CRIME STORY) and the Getty family (TRUST). In 2017 FX had a very successful set of drama launches with FEUD: BETTE AND JOAN, TABOO, LEGION, and SNOWFALL. Other successful shows in 2017 were the third installment of FARGO, AMERICAN HORROR STORY: CULT, and BETTER THINGS. Eleven of the 14 shows that FX programmed last year, about 80%, made year-end “best” lists.
With the final season of THE AMERICANS; the return of AMERICAN CRIME STORY and ATLANTA; new seasons of ARCHER, BASKETS, BETTER THINGS, FEUD, LEGION, SNOWFALL, and SUNNY; plus the addition of MAYANS MC, TRUST, and POSE, FX feels optimistic that the coming year will be a great one!
If FX ultimately becomes part of a much larger Disney, this will undoubtedly help the brand to remain competitive on a global field with the likes of Amazon, HBO, and Netflix. “As the largely unregulated Internet platforms look to become world-swallowing trillion-dollar companies, Hollywood, with its quaintly old-fashioned focus on storytelling, has no choice but to seek the scale necessary to compete,” concluded Landgraf.
Landgraf stated that FX had ended its business relationship with Louis C.K. after he acknowledged that the sexual misconduct reported in the NEW YORK TIMES was accurate. FX recently completed an investigation that was promised several months ago to determine whether there was any misconduct on any of the five shows that Louis had produced for FX. The investigation failed to find issues, complaints, or instances of misconduct of any kind during the eight years that Louis and John worked together.
For the past three press tours FX has provided a director diversity report. The percentage of non white male directors increased from 23% in 2015 to 49% in 2016 to 53% in 2017. FX remains firmly committed to creating more opportunities for diverse and female talent in all areas according to Landgraf, who then opened the floor to questions.
The first questioner inquired about allegations made about Louis C.K.’S conduct which had been circulating on the Internet. Landgraf said that they knew nothing about any instances of misconduct at FX and that FX had been working on sexual harassment training for the past five or six years.
The next questioner asked what advice Landgraf had for his peers in the industry. Landgraf replied, “You know, I don’t think a powerful, white, middle-aged male is the right guy to pronounce the Solomonic decision on what the outcome is. I think this is something that women and people who have been victims have a lot to say about.” He said his responsibility as an employer was to use his power to provide a safe working environment.
The next questioner pointed out that while Louis had been only nominally involved as a producer with BASKETS, he had written or co-written every single episode of the second season of BETTER THINGS. John Landgraf said that Pamela Adlon, the “creative engine” of the show, would have to find another co-writer or write the third season of BETTER THINGS herself.
Another questioner alluded to the fact that FX had a large number of shows from single producing sources. It wouldn’t take a Louis C.K. situation for one person like Ryan Murphy to leave and shut down half the shows on the network because he wanted to go out and find Bigfoot or some such thing. Landgraf said that it was the nature of the business to make extraordinarily deep investments in talent and that some people would inevitably come and go.
However, he felt that the 15-year legacy of FX would show that it had become a place where people like Pamela Adlon and Danny Glover have come to make their first show or first successful show over and over and over again.
The next questioner asked John Landgraf to comment on the Disney asset deal and on how he saw FX Networks fitting into the Disney empire. Landgraf said he thought Disney had been a very good steward of brands that it bought and that FX could add some value by being so different. For example, FX has expertise in adult scripted programming that could help Disney to compete against global streaming services like Amazon and Netflix.
When asked by another questioner whether FX would remain a freestanding entity within a merged company, Landgraf said he didn’t know. He hopes that their lean and efficient organization of only 270 people with its own very distinct culture will be able to retain its integrity and continue to do what it does so well.
The next questioner asked Landgraf whether he had spoken with Louis C.K. before making the decision to sever ties with him. Landgraf replied that they had decided to do this after Louis acknowledged the truth of the NYT reports.
When another questioner pressed Landgraf harder about the details of the Disney merger and his new role within the organization, Landgraf said the deal wouldn’t even be created for a year to a year and a half pending regulatory approval.
“Neither I nor anyone at FX has any counterpart at Disney. What FX is and what FX does simply doesn’t exist in their organization, so on some levels that is a relatively clean thing,” said Landgraf.
The next questioner asked about FARGO, which Landgraf said was not gone and even had new cycles coming up in 2018 and 2019. He added that not all 19 of the FX shows were produced every season since people sometimes went on hiatus or they just took longer to get one done than expected.
When questioned about current broadcast standards concerning language and nudity, Landgraf said that FX had established a longstanding record of late-night programming with appropriate warnings about adult content. The network tries to be tough on “hate speech” and gratuitous epithets. Nudity is also policed.
Landgraf then said he thought viewers should watch FX+ on demand. It will come out in April and be given to every major influencer in Hollywood!
The next questioner asked about the upcoming Katrina and Clinton seasons of AMERICAN CRIME STORY. Landgraf said that his executive staff would have more perspective on those projects than he would.
About the ACS series taken as a whole, Landgraf said that “the examination of a pivotal criminal act can also be an examination of character, an examination of history, an examination of society” with literary merit as with Truman Capote’s pivotal true crime book IN COLD BLOOD.
“We are kind of in the ‘We will sell no wine before its time’ mode. We are just going to try to make things that are really good, and it’s going to take us as long as it takes us to do that,” concluded Landgraf.
The last question again concerned Louis C.K., who had been pulled off of FX’s on demand services. The questioner wanted to know what would happen with that in the long term. Landgraf said they would have to wait and see and that this was part of a “larger conversation.” On that note, the FX panel of one ended.