Swimming away from 'sea of sameness,' U.S. network FX tests TV waters

Wed Aug 20, 2014 4:14pm EDT
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By Mary Milliken

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Television cable network FX revels in its minimalist slogan "Fearless," but it could also opt for "It's OK To Fail," "We Have A Long Way To Go," and "Not For Everybody's Taste."

FX is hard to sum up these days. Even John Landgraf, chief executive of the network owned by Twenty-First Century Fox Inc, says he cannot "cleanly and simply articulate the FX brand."

The basic cable outlet made waves a decade ago as a scrappy purveyor of edgy and somewhat outrageous shows such as 2003's "Nip/Tuck," but now stands out for some of the most acclaimed and innovative work in the flourishing U.S. television industry.

No show represents that evolution better than "Fargo," the miniseries based on the cult movie by the Coen brothers that is the favorite to earn FX its first Emmy for a program at television's top awards next Monday.

For Landgraf, a writer and producer who reads 90 percent of the network's scripts, "Fargo" could have meant "potentially humiliating and spectacular failure."

"The thought occurred to me that the best way to honor your favorite film is to not make a crappy miniseries based on it," he said.

But Landgraf said he did with "Fargo" what he always does: listen to the creative people and trust them to get the storytelling right rather than telling them how to do it. And if they fail, that's part of the network's culture of no safe bets.

"When you have gatekeepers who are making sure people do it the way that everyone else did it, what are you creating?," Landgraf said at his office on the Fox lot. "You are creating a vast sea of sameness."   Continued...

John Landgraf, CEO, FX Networks and FX Productions, speaks during FX network's portion of the 2014 Television Critics Association Cable Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills, California in this July 21, 2014, file photo.  REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian/Files