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John Landgraf Addresses the Business of Television in General and FX in Particular
August 8, 2019  | By Roger Catlin  | 16 comments
 
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Executive sessions at the TV Critics Association press tours tend to kick off a network's day, setting the tone for the rest of the presentations. Of those, FX's Chairman John Landgraf's sessions for the network have done even more with a broader, brainier, philosophic look at the television landscape.
  
It was he who is credited with the term "peak TV" and who proved it numerically each year with the fearsome enumeration of new scripted shows premiering each year (and with no further ado, that number this year has grown to 335 through June 30 — up 5 percent from the same time last year, and putting us on track to get 520 scripted show by the end of the year).
 
"How are you guys feeling about trying to keep up with the volume of television that's being made these days?" he asked the critics, somewhat seriously. "You think, between everybody in this room, you could name every scripted original show on television? I bet you $1,000 that this entire group of professionals, focused on it, couldn't get every single show."
 
But Landgraf's comments and makeshift parlor game didn't come at the start of FX's day Tuesday, but at the end — perhaps taking its cue from the network's topsy-turvy year, which found itself what he called "wholly owned by our new and permanent home, The Walt Disney Company."
 
Completing the cumbersome deal "seemed like an eternity," Landgraf said, but he's said he was pleased to be a part of the studio that Mickey Mouse built. 
 
"Our future is finally here," he said of FX, which is marking its 25th year of existence. "And the transition has gone better than any of us could have hoped for."
 
And while it was jarring to see, say, the makers of FX's Snowfall at the ABC/Disney party the night before, instead of the Fox party set for Wednesday, Landgraf said the network "will remain focused on our brand" and stay measured in approach to them.
 
While FX day seemed lighter than usual, with sessions for returning shows like Mayans M.C. or shows almost through their current seasons, Pose and Snowfall, with one new production, a three-episode, very dark adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Indeed, the day began in the late morning with a screening of an upcoming comedy, Breeders, and the programs on the horizon seemed tantalizing.
 
Two new seasons of Donald Glover's acclaimed Atlanta were announced to run starting in 2020, alongside the final season of Fargo, which begins shooting in Chicago this fall, and a tantalizing third season of Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story, whose full title is The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton: American Crime Story.
 
Sarah Paulson will play Linda Tripp and Beanie Feldstein, a star in What We Do in the Shadows and the recent film Booksmart, will portray Monica Lewinsky - who will also be an executive producer of the limited series, whose start date, Sept 27, 2020, caused some initial questioning because of its proximity to the election several weeks later.
  
"I don’t believe it's going to determine who's the next president of the United States," Landgraf said to the repeated question. "I think that's a little hysterical."
 
Based on Jeffrey Toobin's 1999 book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President, the series will be written by playwright Susan Burgess who Landgraf said would provide "a younger female point of view, a feminist point of view and be given a feminist perspective."

Feminism, too, will be the plot behind another anticipated FX limited series next year, Mrs. America, with Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly, Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem, Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisolm, Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug, and Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan. Of those, remarkable lookalike photos were displayed.
 
A clip was shown of the upcoming Devs from Alex Garland, of Ex Machina fame, with a weird sci-fi tone, and wondrous visual approach. And Landgraf championed The Old Man, from Thomas Perry's novel, that will star Jeff Bridges.
 
After a delay, he said the graphic novel adaptation with Diane Lane, Amber Tamblyn, and Imogen Poots, is back on track.
  
Kate Mara will star in Hannah Fidell's limited series A Teacher, from her independent film of the same name.
 
Upcoming comedies include a half-hour blend of live-action and animated shorts, Cake, on FXX; and Untitled Lil Dicky from Dave Burd and Gone Hollywood from Ted Griffin about an early '80s talent agency.
  
Landgraf also said shooting began for a two-episode pilot for a half-hour anthological series from B.J. Novak called Platform, starring Lucas Hedges, Jon Bernthal, O'Shea Jackson Jr., and Ed Asner.
  
"Every single program on this roster of original programming has been put through the FX curatorial filter because we believe that the filter of a brand will become even more valuable to consumers as they struggle to navigate the deluge of program offerings in the peak TV era," he said.
  
And even with the glut of new shows on every network and streaming services, he said, "much more important than the number of shows FX releases is remaining true to our commitment that every show will be of the quality and brand specificity people have come to associate with FX." 

And while Landgraf pledged FX would "continue to be one of the most original programmers in the scripted television business," the network will build on the current success of The Weekly to delve further into nonfiction with five new docuseries and one documentary.
 
They include a five-part series on Tupac Shakur and his activist mother; a six-part true-crime series about the Jeffrey MacDonald murder case, based on Errol Morris' book A Wilderness of Error; a six-part examination of the fight for LGBTQ civil rights, Pride; a six-part Hip Hop Untold; a four-part film about a man’s look for the father who abandoned him, who might be a serial killer, The Most Dangerous Animal of All; and the feature Women in Comedy. 
 
 
 
 
 
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