As Several Shows Come To An End, FX’s John Landgraf Is “Sweating Bullets” Hunting For New Hits

FX is about to enter a new era.

The network is grappling with how to replace a number of its long-running hits including Snowfall, Mayans M.C., What We Do in the Shadows, Reservation Dogs, Archer and Dave.

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As such, John Landgraf, chairman of FX Content & FX Productions, is “sweating bullets” as he and his team search for new series to replace these shows.

“There was a time when you had these time slots and something was going in that time slot — it might be good, it might be bad, but it wasn’t going to be a color bar in that time slot,” he told Deadline. “Now if we put things on the air or on streaming that are bad, it tarnishes 20 years of hard work we’ve done to try to create a brand that’s synonymous with quality.”

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He added: “We have critical needs, but we have to fill them with things that are worth being successors to the past 20 years of shows that we just made. I’m sweating bullets, to be honest with you, because the truth is, you never know. Obviously you wouldn’t pick something up or you wouldn’t make something if you didn’t think it could be good. But you never know whether it’s going to be as good as it needs to be until really late in the process.”

‘Reservation Dogs’ (FX)
‘Reservation Dogs’ (FX)

During his executive session at the TCA press tour, Landgraf said it was a “bittersweet” year as a result of all of these shows coming to an end.

“There’s a lot of these shows I would have preferred to go longer, because as you can see, there’s a really big turnover happening in the FX slate right now, and that puts an enormous amount of pressure on me and the development team,” he said. “More shows turning over at one time than I’m comfortable with, but the flip side of that is that creates a lot of excitement because it creates a lot of opportunity to find and launch new things. But it’s always a little daunting when you have shows this good. You always feel like, ‘How the heck am I going to ever find something that can replace it?’ And so far, knock wood, we’ve managed to do it.”

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Landgraf told Deadline that his needs are both in comedy and drama.

This year’s slate comprises a larger-than-expected roster of limited series including Feud: Capote vs. The Swans, Shōgun, basketball drama Clipped and Elisabeth Moss-fronted The Veil.

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‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’ (FX)
‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’ (FX)

He said that this was prompted by the writers and actors strikes.

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“We thought we were going to spread all these limited [series] over two years,” he told Deadline. “Then, because of the strike, we were unable to return to production, get new pilots made and the miniseries had already been made. So ultimately, they filled the schedule this year. We have glaring needs for new dramas and comedies, starting in 2025.”

The cupboard is not entirely bare. There’s obviously Emmy-winning comedy The Bear, which returns in June, and it expects to launch The English Teacher, a comedy about a gay high school teacher from Brian Jordan Alvarez, toward the end of the year.

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The Old Man, starring Jeff Bridges, will return at the end of the year. The series is about to restart production after the strikes interrupted it and is three to four episodes in.

In terms of development, the network is currently casting for its comedy pilot Snowflakes, which comes from Ben Kronengold, Rebecca Shaw, Nick Kroll and Karey Dornetto.

Its remake of cult British comedy Peep Show, starring Minne Driver and Amandla Jahava, has also been piloted, and Landgraf told Deadline that it is “close” to a decision on its hopes.

Landgraf said that he’s “desperate to find the next great thing.”

He said that pitching has picked up since the start of the year but not quite as much as he expected.

“Certainly, our first-look and overall deals at our studio and at our home studios, ABC Signature and 20th Television, a lot of stuff has come in,” he said. “The market has opened up to some extent too, not as much as I sort of thought it would in the aftermath of such a protracted dual strike.”

But he added that unlike networks such as HBO and streamers such as Apple, FX picks up fewer shows as packages, preferring instead to spent a long time “gestating” its development.

“All the way back to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and through to The Bear, you probably wouldn’t even have paid attention to that development deal. So many of our shows really are about the execution, not the names,” he added.

FX has Noah Hawley’s Alien coming in 2025, but Landgraf said it won’t become an IP factory, highlighting how Mayans M.C. felt like the right spinoff for Sons of Anarchy because it was set in a different world. “You don’t want to repeat the same thing over and over again,” he said. “It doesn’t actually serve our needs to do that. It’s not what the audience wants.

With all of these shows coming to an end, Landgraf was asked at TCA whether another FX series will run past five seasons in the future.

“It’s such a good question, and it’s something that I struggle with — my team and I struggle — and I ponder really deeply,” he said.

He pointed to declining attention spans. “I think our impatience with things that are a little demanding have gone down. It’s something I’m really worried about in the media ecosystem created by the internet,” he added. “We have 8,000 episodes of television available on our streaming platforms, so holding people’s attention is really difficult. I worry very much about what that will mean for deep library, because what I see right now if I look across the ecosystem at actual consumption of television is that’s a lot of what people want from TV.”

Landgraf added that the cost of making television has “radically increased” as well.

“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 you make 600 television shows.” he said. “Television shows start at such an expensive rate. We have so many shows from The Shield to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and many that started with such modest budgets that even if they weren’t on fire out the gate, we could afford to renew them and believe in them creatively. That gets harder to do when something is super-expensive.”

‘American Horror Story: Delicate’ (FX)
‘American Horror Story: Delicate’ (FX)

Talking of expensive shows, the network still has a number of Ryan Murphy-produced series in the pipeline. The second half of American Horror Story: Delicate launches in April; Gladiator: American Sports Story, which tells the tale of Aaron Hernandez, is coming soon; and American Love Story is still in development.

Landgraf said that Murphy, who recently moved back to Disney after his Netflix deal, is busy coming up with new ideas too.

“All of these questions sort of sit in Ryan World. and obviously he has his own methodology for communicating when he wants to communicate. He’s a little different than everybody else. I can tell you he’s working on a whole bunch of new things for us right now that I’m really excited about, that I think he’ll be announcing relatively soon,” Landgraf said. “There’s always a lot of ideas circulating about potential new seasons of American Crime Story or American Sports Story or American Love Story or Feud, but I sort of never know which one he’s going to latch onto next.”

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