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At TCA, John Landgraf Announces Expansion of the FX Universe
January 13, 2020  | By Roger Catlin  | 19 comments
 


PASADENA, Calif. — The proliferation of television programming has gotten so out of hand in recent years that the man who coined the phrase "peak TV" isn't even making his semi-annual charts tracking its growth anymore.

"Categorizing them by distribution platform, broadcast, pay cable, basic cable, and streaming," FX entertainment chief John Landgraf (top) said, "is becoming an outdated mode of division as the streaming wars ignite."

But he still keeps track of the hair-raising number of U.S. adult scripted series which last year topped 500 for the first time.

The whopping 532 scripted drama, comedy, and limited series in 2019 represents a 7 percent gain over 2018 and what he called "a massive conveyer belt of content."

"Given that the streaming wars are now at hand," what he called "the mad race to keep such a massive conveyer belt of content going," will likely only increase this year, Landgraf said. "That's just bananas, right?"

Reporters at the TV Critics Association (TCA) winter press tour knew only too well how tough it was to keep up with the proliferation of new titles. But they always look forward to Landgraf's twice-yearly numerical update, if only to track the growing impossibility of covering the widening field.

FX, acquired last year by the Walt Disney Company, is jumping further into the streaming world that is accelerating content in the past-peak TV era.

This spring, they launch a subset of Hulu, free to subscribers, called FX on Hulu, where not only will there be available shows from their FX and FXX channels the day after their cable premieres, but also offer shows exclusive to the new streaming site.

That's right: If you thought the distinction between FX and FXX and FXM was confounding enough on cable, wait until FX on Hulu launches March 2. At the heart of them, though, are the kinds of shows that have made the network stand out amid the glut all around them.

And the day FX presented sessions on linear FX and FXX shows, they also presented some of their most intriguing offerings that will be available only on the streaming service FX on Hulu.

One of them is a new eight-episode limited series, Devs, from Ex Machina creator Alex Garland, starring Nick Offerman, Alison Pill, and Jin Ha, premiering March 5.

The other is the fascinating early fight over the ERA in the 1970s, Mrs. America, with Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly, Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem, Tracy Ullman as Betty Freidan, Margo Martingale as Bella Abzug, and Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm. It starts April 15 on the streaming service only.

But there were also panels on new linear FX shows Breeders, a comedy with Martin Freeman and Daisy Haggard, beginning March 5; the true-crime documentary series The Most Dangerous Animal of All, starting March 6, as well as the fourth season return of Better Things March 5, second season of What We Do in the Shadows April 15 and, after a two-year absence, the fourth installment of Fargo April 19 with Chris Rock and Jason Schwartzman starring in a Kansas City mob story circa 1950. All will be on FX on Hulu the following day.

There was also a panel for a new FXX comedy, Dave, about Dave Burd's life as rapper Lil Dicky, co-produced by Kevin Hart, starting March 4.

Landgraf described FXX as "the younger sibling" of FX with programming that may appeal to a younger demographic who enjoy shows like Archer (which returns for season 11 on May 6).

And FX on Hulu might be even more appealing to a younger audience.

He held up as an example a recent three-part adaptation of Dickens' familiar holiday tales. "The average median age of A Christmas Carol was 17 years' difference on FX versus on Hulu."

The confluences of the systems needn't be confusing.

The Disney acquisition of much of the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox empire that includes FX, along with the majority control of Hulu, has paved the way for FX to reach its streaming potential on FX on Hulu.

Although the acquisition of the edgy FX by the family-oriented Disney seemed odd at first, Landgraf said. "We see this as a transformative opportunity for the FX brand, our shows, and our talent."

"I'm confident that consumers, Hulu subscribers, and the media will quickly gain a clear understanding of FX on Hulu," Landgraf says, "because it really is not that complicated."

FX on Hulu, for example, will exist as a branded hub on the Hulu platform. It will offer more than 40 FX titles, present, and past, but also some shows exclusive to FX on Hulu. Besides Devs and Mrs. America, those will include A Teacher this summer and The Old Man in the fall.

FX and FXX will continue in their linear cable forms, he said, and, as a result, "I believe FX can be even stronger."

In other FX announcements Thursday, Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story was renewed for seasons 11, 12, and 13 in advance of its tenth season later this year. No themes have been announced, as is its practice, but Landgraf said, "somehow it just feels really poetic to me that American Horror Story is going to have 13 seasons. That just felt right."

As for Murphy's other anthology series, American Crime Story, Landgraf said there would be a delay of the third season story about the impeachment of Bill Clinton — with Clive Owen as Clinton, Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp, and Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky (who is one of the series' producers).

It was initially announced to debut just before the 2020 election, but now it won't premiere until after November — not because of any outcry, Landgraf said, but because of Murphy's full schedule. For one thing, he won't be finished shooting the film version of the Broadway musical The Prom with Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and James Corden until March.

 
 
 
 
 
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