FX Boss John Landgraf on Lack of Long-Running TV Series: ‘Attention Spans Have Declined Radically’

FX’s John Landgraf is not sure the media ecosystem supports television shows that run beyond just a few seasons.

“I think our attention spans have declined radically and I think our patience with things that are a little demanding have gone down,” Landgraf said during his annual executive session at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. “It’s something I’m really worried about in the media ecosystem created by the internet.”

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The remarks came after Landgraf gave his annual update on the number of scripted series on television, with his data showing that Peak TV has in fact peaked. The total number of scripted shows declined 14% between 2022 and 2023, dropping from 600 to 516.

“We’ve radically increased the cost of making television in season one,” he said. “We brought a lot of wonderful talent into television, but there’s been a spiraling and escalating cost. That’s part of what happens when we make 600 television shows.”

Landgraf pointed to the early seasons of FX series like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “The Shield” as examples of shows with more modest budgets early in their runs that the network was able to renew despite less than stellar ratings in the beginning due to their price points.

“We could afford to do that and believe in it,” he said. “It’s harder to do with something super expensive.” To Landgraf’s point, “The Shield” ran for seven seasons and nearly 100 episodes while “Always Sunny” aired its 16th season in 2023.

He also gave updates on Ryan Murphy productions like “American Love Story” and future seasons of “American Crime Story,” saying, “All of these questions sort of sit in Ryan world. Obviously, he has his own methodology for communicating when he wants to, so he’s a little different than everybody else. I can tell you he’s working on a whole bunch of new things for us.”

Landgraf also said the new “Alien” series from “Fargo’s” Noah Hawley is currently shooting in Thailand with a slated 2025 launch, touching on how shooting for “Alien” might impact future seasons of “Fargo.”

“[“Alien”] is designed to be an ongoing series,” he said. “Then as far as ‘Fargo,’ it’s a matter of timing because I’m hoping Noah’s going to be working on ‘Alien’ and subsequent seasons of ‘Alien’ and really trying to turn that around fast.”

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