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Hillary Atkin

FX Chief Explains Why His Network Won’t Be Trying to Compete With Netflix

Jul 30, 2018

Aside from being the chief executive of FX Networks, John Landgraf is known for being an authoritative source on the scripted television (and streaming) landscape.

During his remarks at the TCA summer press tour Friday, he gave a midseason update to the tally of dramas, comedies and limited series, saying that 319 scripted series have been produced through the first six months of this year — up 5% from the same period last year. Much of that growth is due to the proliferating production output of Netflix and other streaming services, which account for 76 of those scripted series. Meanwhile, scripted series for broadcast networks are down as they are on ad-supported networks like FX.

But Landgraf said FX will not increase its production just for the sake of trying to compete with Netflix’s volume.

“I don’t want to be more everything,” he said. “I don’t want to take over the world. I just want to make good television shows.” Although he said FX will delve into non-scripted fare, like the caliber of documentaries on pay cable, he promised there won’t be a reality competition series on FX.

There will be this, and there’s nothing funny about it: Chris Rock will have his first regular TV role in more than a decade on the new iteration of “Fargo.” Season 4 will see Rock as the head of a criminal syndicate who has struck an unusual alliance with its rival. The clash between the two groups takes place in Kansas City, Mo., in 1950.

As with other seasons of “Fargo,” the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning series based on the Coen brothers film and created by Noah Hawley, the premise is pretty twisted. “Chris Rock plays a man who in order to prosper has surrendered his oldest boy to his enemy and who must in turn raise his son’s enemy as his own. And then the head of the Kansas City Mafia goes into the hospital for routine surgery and dies. And everything changes,” the network chief said about the new season.

FX will also dive deeper into the limited series world with a revival of “Shogun” and an eight-episode conspiracy thriller set in Silicon Valley called “Devs,” to be directed by Alex Garland.

The original “Shogun,” which was based on James Clavell’s best-selling novel, starred Richard Chamberlain and aired over five nights on NBC in 1980. Many credit it with launching the television miniseries format.

“The themes of an outsider encountering a new culture are as relevant today as then,” said Landgraf.

During its day at TCA, FX presented panels on continuing series “You’re the Worst,” the perennial favorite “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” the new chapter of “American Horror Story,” “Apocalypse,” and “Pose,” which will have its second season next year.

The legion of fans of “Sons of Anarchy,” FX’s most widely viewed series, are eagerly awaiting its spinoff, “Mayans M.C,” which premieres Sept. 4.

Its much-admired and often controversial co-creator Kurt Sutter, along with co-creator Elgin James and series stars JD Pardo, Clayton Cardenas, Edward James Olmos, Sarah Bolger, Danny Pino and Emilio Rivera, delved into the saga of the Latino motorcycle gang, which is set in a fictional town near the California-Mexico border.

Sutter said he and Landgraf wanted to continue the IP of “Sons,” but wait a couple of years. He said “SoA” characters may appear in flashback, a device he didn’t use during the original series, whose seventh season concluded in December 2014.

Toward the end, the storytelling showed a strong alliance between the formerly rival Mayans and the Sons. “Mayans M.C.,” which focuses on the Reyes family and “golden boy” younger son Angel (Pardo), takes place eight years before that, so all the Sons were around at that time. (Before, you know, when many of them met their brutal end.)

“I don’t want to mess with that mythology,” Sutter said. “Any Mayans character we deal with in real time, so there can be an intersection without suggesting the direction or history that continues with Sons, so that mythology can live on in people’s imaginations.”

James said he grew up in a cycle of poverty and incarceration and is happy to be able to “tell stories from the inside out.”

“This is a different time. This thing will shoot us right through the roof,” said Olmos, who plays the patriarch. “It deals with dark situations and it’s about time. If you think ‘Dexter’ was tough, look at Kurt and Elgin.”

Sutter summed up his credo of the motorcycle gang characters this way: “The stories I like to tell and the characters I like to create are damaged. They live outside the parameters of the norm and what’s expected. As a result, there is a rogue and outlaw component and that is the case here. I never write these people from a point of view of being dangerous or bad. They’re complex. People showed up for ‘Sons’ because it was about family.”

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