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TCA's Winter Press Tour – Day 2: FX Network
January 6, 2018  | By Roger Catlin
 

PASADENA, Calif. — Amid the hype and hubbub of the TV Critics Association winter press tour, there is one reliable moment of hushed reflection — during the anticipated biannual address of FX CEO John Landgraf (top).

The sage among execs, whose effect is further heightened now by a beard, reliably provides a state of the medium message along with some sobering statistics from his research department. HIs big reveal is the precise number of scripted series premiering new episodes, which in 2017 was a staggering 487. That’s up 7 percent from the 455 of 2016.

For critics in the room, it’s a sort of blanket forgiveness — they could be expected to have seen more than a fraction of them.

This year’s Landgraf address began with a Dickens quote and ended with a mea culpa regarding the sexually inappropriate behavior that came to light late in the year of one of the network’s most prolific creators, Louis C.K., after he acknowledged reports of sexual misconduct.

“Our public statement at the time said that we would conduct a further investigation to determine if there was any misconduct on any of the five shows that Louis produced for FX,” Landgraf said. “Having recently completed that investigation, we did not find any issues, complaints, or instances of misconduct of any kind during the eight years we worked together.”

Still, there will be no future episodes of Louie, which had reliably been in critics’ top ten lists. The animated series he was developing, The Cops, was kaput. C.K. will have his name removed from Baskets, One Mississippi, an FX studio show running on Amazon Prime, and one show in which he had heavy writing involvement, Better Things.

That show’s star and co-creator, Pamela Adlon (above) is “going to have to write them all herself or find another co writer,” Landgraf said.

Pressed, Landgraf said the company was unaware of the much-rumored wrongdoing by C.K. before they were first reported by the New York Times.

“The only thing I’m aware of was a blind item in Gawker, he said. “To me, that’s not an actual news source.”

There was a bit of other news in his executive address: Kurt Sutter’s series about another motorcycle gang, Mayans MC, featuring a nearly all-Latino cast, will debut in the fall, to help mark the 10th anniversary of the hit series that spawned it, Sons of Anarchy.

Landgraf didn’t seem rattled by the potential effects of the proposed Fox-Disney merge, though FX is part of the Fox family. Instead, he expressed regard for Disney’s Pixar. “I’m optimistic and time will tell,” he said.

A fourth season of Fargo may well be on its way next year, Landgraf said in answer to a question. Creator Noah Hawley told him he had an idea for the season, “which excites me enormously.”

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For his part, Noah Hawley said the next thing from him regarding Fargo will be a coffee table book summarizing the first three seasons.

He’s busy on other projects, including the second season of Legion, the most unlikely of the numbers Marvel adaptations on TV, that plays like a psychedelic light show into human consciousness.

“It’s easier to convey information visually,” Hawley said on a panel for the new season that starts in April. The first episode of the new season made available to critics certainly plays up and Hawley likes how different it is, even if viewers may not be able to immediately follow quite every mind-bending plot turn.

“The idea of making something unexpected is important,” Hawley said, asking, for example, “Why does a room have to be right side up?”

The confusion of the series is not lost on its cast, which includes Dan Stevens, Aubrey Plaza, Rachel Keller, Jermaine Clement, and Jean Smart.

“Traumatic is the right word,” says Plaza, whose whole character is different in Season 2. “It’s really scary to play a character that you don’t know who she is.”

If the look of Legion is what Hawley calls Brutalist Architecture and this kind of mid '60s design aesthetic, the music heretofore has been a lot of Pink Floyd.

“I mean, we literally played 'Dark Side of the Moon' at the end of the first season,” he said. So while there may be less Floyd in Season 2, one of its main characters will continue to be named after one of the bands' founders, Syd Barrett.

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The FX creator with the most shows is undoubtedly Ryan Murphy, who presided on back-to-back panels Friday — one for a project about the 80s New York trans ballroom culture, Pose, but also his lavish second installment in the “American Crime Story” franchise, this one titled The Assassination of Gianni Versace that begins Jan. 17.

While many may recall the shocking shooting death of the acclaimed designer in front of his Miami Beach mansion, less well-known is the story of his murderer, who had been wanted by the FBI for a series of brutal killings.

Like Murphy’s initial installment of American Crime Story, The People vs. O.J. Simpson, this one has a dream cast that includes Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez of Carlos as the designer; Penelope Cruz as his sister Donatella, Ricky Martin as his lover, and Darren Criss of Glee as the murderer Andrew Cunanan.

“This certainly is a once in a lifetime opportunity that happened to be within the hands of the person that I had been creating other things with and who had been such a champion for me on Glee,” Criss said. “I definitely lucked out. I think a lot of actors have to wait a lifetime for something like this.”

While the O.J. saga never showed the murder, this one begins with it. But that’s the plan for American Crime Story, Murphy said.

“One of the joys about this show for me is that every season of this show will have a different tonality. The first season was very much a courtroom potboiler. The second season is a manhunt thriller,” he said.

Its third season, covering Hurricane Katrina, will be set in New Orleans’ Memorial Hospital, looking at issues of health care and global warming.

“So every different season of the show, unlike other things that we’ve done, is so different.”

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While there was a set visit and session for Versace at TCA’s summer press tour, much less is known about Pose, which already made headlines for putting together the largest transgender cast for a TV series. The cast also includes Evan Peters, Kate Mara, and James Van Der Beek.

Not only was it inspired by the documentary Paris is Burning, Murphy said, some of its surviving participants were used in Pose, in front of cameras as judges in the ballroom competitions, or behind the scenes as consultants.

“Many of the scenes and incidents in the show are based on their stories that they have told us, which was very exciting for me,” Murphy said, “because they were rock stars to me when I was growing up.”

While there is a ballroom culture that continues today, he said, Pose is a period piece that begins in 1987 and runs until the moment in 1990 when Madonna releases the single “Vogue,” the point, Murphy says, when “this wonderful world then becomes mainstream.”

Besides the drama, the eight-episode series due this summer will also be a dance musical, Murphy promises.

“It has an incredible soundtrack. It has a lot of big musical numbers,” he says. “So I feel like it’s not something that has any point that alienates anybody. There are access points for everybody. My dream is that this show is watched, you know, by families, just like Glee was in some sort of weird way.”

 
 
 
 
 
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