In August 2015, FX C.E.O. John Landgraf forged a reputation as a TV sage when he sat before journalists at the Television Critics Association summer press tour and told them that the industry had reached “Peak TV”—an overload in original programming, one that would inevitably lead to a decline as the bubble eventually burst.
Three years later, he returned to the same audience to announce that his earlier prediction had been off-base. Scripted TV has not peaked; in fact, he said, “we are going to see a continued profusion in content,” with streamers pumping ever more shows into the universe alongside cable and broadcast networks. His notion that there was “too much TV” had been too narrow; the real problem, according to Landgraf now, is that “theres too much story! Theres too much narrative.”
“We respect how increasingly difficult it is to keep up with the insane volume of new and returning series,” Landgraf said. “The number of new series Ive seen announced just this week alone makes me suspect the golden age of television has now become the gilded age of television.”
Landgraf counted 319 scripted shows released in the U.S. this year alone, up 5 percent from this time last year. Streaming programming alone is up 46 percent. He said that this TV glut is both wonderful and horrible: it leaves room to increase diversity, but also makes it almost impossible to “surprise the audience with something novel.”
He said that “almost everything that has ever been successful” on FX was surprising, from The Shield and Nip/Tuck to its hits of today. Who would have predicted based on its eccentric initial pitch that Atlanta would be the most Emmy-nominated comedy on television?
Speaking of FX programming, Landgraf said that his network has 25 active series in its stable, either on the air or currently in development.
Its newly announced series include Devs, an eight-episode drama created, written, and executive produced by Annihilation and Ex Machina director Alex Garland. It stars Sonoya Mizuno as a computer engineer trying to uncover a murder committed by her tech company, as well as Nick Offerman, Jin Ha, Zach Grenier, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Cailee Spaeny, and Alison Pill. Theres a new limited-series version of Shogun coming, and the previously announced Fosse/Verdon and What We Do in the Shadows.
Landgraf also formally announced the fourth season of Fargo, set in the 1950s and starring Chris Rock. It will be a “story of immigration, assimilation, and the things we do for money . . . decent people who are probably in over their heads.”
When asked about how an impending corporate shift might change FX—the network is among the Fox spoils being acquired by Disney—Landgraf said he doesnt have any orders from Disney, but hes not worried about what will happen. He referred to the recent controversy over whether HBO would have to speed up its output in the wake of that networks own absorption by AT&T: “Part of the logic of this transaction is to scale up their own streaming services,” said Landgraf. The fight for attention is an “epic battle between very large companies that are going to be competing”; he predicts it will lead to increased investment in content, which Landgraf sees as a good thing.
“I dont want to take over the world—I just want to make good television,” he added. “Hopefully we can find more Shawn Ryans and Pamela Adlons and Donald Glovers.”
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