John Landgraf is not interested in making any grand declarations about the future of television. The FX chairman has made more than one attempt to predict the “television peak,” a phrase he famously coined to address the massive flood of content, when it will actually peak, and he insists he won’t do it publicly again.
We will be sharing a booth at Nerano Restaurant in Beverly Hills, a popular Italian restaurant, and he suggested we meet in early October. I chose him as the subject of my first “Table for Two” column, in part because during his nearly 20 years at FX, he was known as an unofficial television mayor, often using media opportunities to rhetoric about the state of the industry . But Landgraf’s FX Network Group, which was absorbed by Disney in 2019, said he’s been more interested in listening lately. In fact, at 60, he thinks listening is the only way he can stay in his chair.
This afternoon, the lord often mentioned his age. I’m curious to know if it’s because many of his peers have recently left or lost their big jobs. David Nevins and Mark Pedowitz are the latest examples. A week before we met, they announced their exit from Paramount and The CW, respectively. “I think some generational turnover is inevitable,” Landgraf said after we settled on our lunch order. (Landgraf opted for the grilled shrimp salad, which I did at his suggestion.) s, but if you’re at the level of working with creative people, and you’re struggling with taste issues, and now related issues , even if you have an incredible team, it’s hard. ”
In recent weeks, Landgraf has been using mandatory three days a week in the office to meet every FX 300 or so Staff; all but two of them are younger than him, he said. After two and a half years working from home with his actress wife, Ally Walker, and one of their three grown sons , he and thousands of other Disney employees returned to the office in late September. He set aside as much as an hour and a half a day with to sit with staff once. He starts with the newest staff first – since the pandemic About a third of the FX team has joined since the beginning – many of whom are still assistants. “What motivates you now? “Landgraf asks at every meeting, eager to hear about movies, shows, podcasts, and novels that he doesn’t care about.
Abbott Elementary, reboot and Andor all appeared, he said, A 24, especially Everything Everywhere All at Once .To him For new responses, such as HBO’s Industry or the comic series The Housekeeper’s Way , which he notes and becomes familiar with later. Landgraf insists that the exercise is not only educational, but crucial to his own relevance. “It gave me a real sense of who and what is hot right now,” He said, noting how many of his new hires are there because FX programming means a lot to them. “So, the vast majority of people share the taste split with me, but they’re younger, so they’re listening and watching different thing. If I’m doing exactly what I want to see, it won’t work – my job is to try and make what theythey want to see. “
Landgraf and his executives have done a particularly good job of this since May. Come first Under the flag and old man , then bear , Patient and Welcome to Wrexham . “We just went through a period where almost everything worked period,” he said, referring to consumption — the elderly and Bear according to Landgraf were the highest-rated drama and comedy in FX history, respectively, and received critical acclaim. Overall, new and returning shows, including Atlanta and Peabody Champions Reservation Dogs , average percentage on Rotten Tomatoes 91. He didn’t name any of his streaming rivals, and continued, “It really made me believe again that it’s not just about conquering with numbers or pouring unlimited money into established talent.
From the outside, it’s easy to speculate that the lord’s power has diminished in Disney’s New Order. He now reports to former colleague Dana Walden and has made decisions in consultation with other Disney leaders The show decides. Plus, for the vast majority of American viewers, his FX brand is now just a tile on Hulu. But those closest to the Lord say he hasn’t had this much energy in years, even if he’s mediocre Odd’s nature is hard to identify. He’s largely shed jobs that don’t excite him — those that aren’t explicitly related to making shows. Being a tile on Hulu means consumption, he says Sharp rise. Bigger investments followed, and Landgraf is now putting out 25 a year’s worth of exhibitions, about the same time he was at FX Twice what cable did at his peak. What’s more, the move to streaming allowed him to make more and bigger bets — like his upcoming period drama Shogun – This was the domain of Netflix or HBO before. But just because Landgraf can make epic epics doesn’t mean he will. At least not often.
In fact, the item that got the most airtime in our two-plus hours together was Bear , a half hour without A-list, costing About as much as Lord of the Rings ‘s food and beverage budget. It wasn’t an obvious choice. Instead, he and his team actively discussed the idea as always Pros, especially his young devs, they were enthusiastic. So, he ordered it to be piloted, and then like he does with all FX pilots, for some of the company 45 high-level screening, soliciting honest feedback from everyone. He can’t remember a more popular pilot. When it premiered in late June, The Bear quickly became the busiest show of the summer. Lords can now sit here and tell you that a well-done restaurant show is broadly relevant because so many people have worked in their lifetimes—if No, they definitely ate one. But he didn’t realize it.
Family, I miss it,” he told me. “It’s something TV has stopped doing because it’s making stuff like House of the Dragon 300 and The Ring Wang – There’s nothing wrong with that, but if everyone is putting hundreds of millions of dollars into making giant epics, then by definition you should figure out how to make the opposite.” Looking ahead, let One of his optimistic genres is the sitcom, especially the laughing genre that has fallen out of favor. Landgraf was NBC’s prime-time vice president during the 30 years, and in its heyday was at Friends even hints that the format could eventually be reimagined without feeling derivative.
Not long ago, there was a time when Landgraf was hardly so optimistic. He didn’t like what the TV industry was becoming, with the influx of tech money and movie stars, and he didn’t see a way forward for FX. Disney has yet to acquire Fox-owned assets, and Landgraf’s survival appears to depend on a bunch of FX cable networks whose consumption levels are in free fall, and an independent streaming service he’s pretty sure won’t scale. “Four years ago I didn’t know FX would be part of The Walt Disney Company, but it’s a lifeline,” he says now.
Extremely slow, making FX a massive setback in a competitive market. Writers and reps, the two contingents who usually praise Landgraf and his brand, began complaining about projects being shelved and decisions being delayed. Landgraf was equally frustrated. “We didn’t bet early enough,” he admitted. “Apple, Amazon, Netflix and even HBO have come out, with new avenues, new financing mechanisms, they’ve all come into the market, we’re being acquired and trying to figure out a way to work with Hulu, but there really isn’t a lot of capacity” Put new shows into production.
So Landgraf watched mostly from the sidelines, overwhelmed and increasingly inhibited by production. Also, he didn’t like what he saw on screen. “With More and more movies are being appropriated, and TV is getting a little complacent. It got top-notch movie stars and top-notch directors and writers, it got budgets, it got the theatrical genre as multiple theaters focused more and more on Marvel movies, it got the rom-com genre, it spent a lot of genres. But the best TV is a different format,” he said. “Storytelling with a plot that’s reproducible is something people crave; viewers want some level of comfort and familiarity. “
Every now and then he stops to pick out a salad or order a latte, but he’s always outspoken. In this case, it comes back to Bear. “The show is uncomfortable, but in the end it’s in a place that’s familiar and comfortable, a group of people who work together and who are hard to get along with, but who find mutual understanding and tolerance The way. It’s as old as the sun,” he said. “That’s what excites me — the opportunity to remake TV, it sounds crazy. ”
, which one acting partner called “a beacon in a dim universe” as everyone else seemed to be focused on stock prices and recessions. Landgraf does not dispute that description, although he insists He shares his concerns with everyone else. “The industry is going through a deep and complete shift, and those shifts are painful, but we’ll get through it,” he said. As for the possibility of a writers’ strike this spring, he added : “I do worry that the industry may need to produce fewer TV shows, so the strike could be an accelerant.
At the same time, he intends to continue to focus on what he loves, and he is committed to doing it the way he always does: having good old-fashioned pilots and a fundamental belief that he , the executive, was a one-off. The latter came from friend and mentor David Manson, who told him when they were producers: “‘As producers, writers and networks sometimes clash. Always choose writers because network executives come and go and relationships with writers can last 10, 10, 30 years,’” Landgraf recalled, He never forgot.
“Accepting that you’re not indispensable [as a cyber exec] actually empowers you in the process, rather than dominating and bullying and The power to tell people, ‘You have the power to do this. ‘ It gives you the power to persuade,” he continued. “If Chris Storer [the creator of The Bear] doesn’t want to take notes for me, he doesn’t have to Take notes, I really mean he doesn’t have to. Everyone does, so if you think there’s something worth listening to, [we, as executives] better come to our A-game. “
somewhat reluctantly, being able to support or not support projects. “At the end of the day, more credit than I deserve or more blame than I deserve will fall on me, And it’s just me, if I do it wrong long enough, I’ll get fired,” he said. “So I listen to everyone and take what they say to heart. ”
This story first appeared in the November 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter Magazine. Click here to subscribe .