FX made headlines when it announced that the new installment of “American Crime Story” will focus on the events that led up to impeachment proceedings of President Bill Clinton — even as it was criticized in some quarters for slotting the Ryan Murphy anthology series just before the 2020 presidential election.
But there was other news as the cable network presented its upcoming programming at the Television Critics Association summer press tour last week at the Beverly Hilton.
It was the first TCA presentation under the corporate umbrella of Disney, and CEO of FX Networks and FX Productions John Landgraf held his always-awaited executive session, which in recent years has included a “State of Peak TV” report card.
Perhaps more than any single entity, Landgraf keeps tabs on what’s going on. He said the number of scripted originals through the month of June now stands at 335. If that pace continues for the rest of 2019, the tally would grow to 520, beating last year’s record of 495.
Landgraf also continued a theme that was hammered home by several of his broadcast network executive counterparts. He joined a number of entertainment chiefs speaking at TCA who have been critical of the way streamers, particularly Netflix, produce and market their shows.
“Some move fast and that seems like a good strategy, but for FX, that’s never worked; that’s not our philosophy,” he said, in an apparent dig at the streaming competition. “We’re at our best when we move deliberately and focus on our brand while providing every one of our creators a level of personal attention. As we enter new era at Disney, we’re cranking up the creative engines to a higher level than ever before. The new structure allows FX to have unparalleled access to great creative talent, and that’s how we maintain quality and focus as we’re scaling up.”
During its TCA day, FX spotlighted returning “Breeders,” a new comedy coming next year and “A Christmas Carol,” upcoming in December, along with returning dramas “Mayans M.C.,” “Mr. Inbetween,” “Snowfall” and “Pose” – which has been nominated for six Primetime Emmys.
The third season of “Snowfall” is underway and a fourth has been ordered. It’s been a bittersweet experience for the cast and producers ever since creator John Singleton died unexpectedly this past April.
“He was a part of it for four years. We shared the enjoyment of letting things unfold and had a good sense of the roadmap. No one could foresee what crack was going to do to the community and there are consequences this season,” said co-creator and showrunner Dave Andron during the panel. It had begun with a dramatic clip from the current season featuring series star Damson Idris as Franklin in an existential showdown with a friend who became a cop.
Acclaimed novelist Walter Mosely worked with Singleton creating “Snowfall,” which chronicles the beginnings of the crack cocaine epidemic in South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s, and he continues as a writer and consulting producer.
Mosely and other panelists reflected on collaborating with the late director, their reminiscences culminating with a tribute video spotlighting some of Singleton’s many works including his groundbreaking 1991 film “Boyz n the Hood,” along with “Rosewood,” “Shaft” and “2 Fast 2 Furious.”
“Mayans M.C.” co-creator Kurt Sutter was asked about the violence in the “Sons of Anarchy” spinoff, whose second season premieres September 3. “We are exploring damaged characters in a dark world with weapons and lethal force. Creatively, it is our job to tell that story,” said Sutter, who developed the drama with Elgin James. “The violence is not pretty or sexy. It’s never gratuitous and it’s never in a vacuum – there’s always payback. Violence shatters humanity. It’s my job to put it into the story. We’re sort of an easy target. Our show is gritty and uncomfortable to watch sometimes and not portrayed by pretty white people.”
Edward James Olmos, who co-stars with JD Pardo, Clayton Cardenas, Sarah Bolger, Danny Pino and Emilio Rivera, promised that the show is moving in a strong direction and will be intensely rewarding to viewers.
Sutter also expounded on his milieu, which goes back to FX’s “The Shield.” “I’m drawn to dark stuff,” he said, to the surprise of no one, and offered an explanation. “I grew up as an outsider and was disenfranchised and forced to live in my own head for a lot of years. Without going into details that will make you wish you didn’t come today, the stuff we work out is injustices, camaraderie and brotherhood. I wish sometimes I could write a comedy or a show about a lawyer, but everyone would be dead.”
Although he’s a Broadway veteran of hit shows like “Kinky Boots,” “Pose” has made Billy Porter a fixture of mainstream pop culture, along with the acclaim he received for his elaborate golden costume complete with wings and a headdress at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Gala this year and the glorious tuxedo gown he donned for the Oscars.
Porter, wearing oversized pale pink crystal-covered glasses, beamed in via satellite to join the “Pose” panel, which featured co-creator (with Ryan Murphy) Steven Canals, Janet Mock, Our Lady J and Mj Rodriguez. Porter said his message of inclusivity via his character Pray Tell reaches a huge number of people in television– and that it’s been fun for him.
“This has cracked open a moment of my life and I’m having a fabulous time,” he declared.
The other participants discussed the impact of “Pose,” with Mock mentioning that at the first season’s premiere event, most of the men wore suits, while at the second, many of the men’s outfits had trains.
“It opens up conversations about gender expression and presentation,” she said. “It’s the evolution of the show’s influence.”