PASADENA, Cal. – John Landgraf will quickly admit there are too many TV shows.
As head of the FX cable networks, he has his staff count them. “There were 532 scripted (series and mini-series) last year,” he told the Television Critics Association. “That’s a 7 percent gain vs. 2018. And given that the streaming wars are now at hand, we expect (it) will increase.”
So what FX is doing now is … well, adding several new shows and a new streaming service.
Or, actually, a new hub on an existing streamer. “FX on Hulu” debuts March 2; it will soon have two mini-series (“Mrs. America,” shown here, and “Devs”) that are only on Hulu, plus shows on both FX and Hulu.
For now, producers are viewing this optimistically. “It’s my No. 1 dream, that more people can see the show,” Pamela Adlon said.
Her “Better Things,” has drawn waves of praise, including two Emmy nominations for Adlon and a Peabody for the show. Other FX shows – from “Pose” to “Fosse/Verdon” – have drawn raves, but the network’s ratings have shrunk. They fell 22 per cent last year, according to the trade paper Variety.
Most basic-cable ratings have slipped recently, with streaming services being blamed: Some viewers are too busy watching Netflix and such; a few have even become cord-cutters, eliminating cable.
One solution is for FX to straddle both worlds. It merges its “85 million (homes) with a new 30 million-ish-homes-and-growing” on Hulu, Landgraf said.
And that’s a different set of viewers. Landgraf said he saw that last month, when a new movie aired on both channels. “The median age of ‘A Christmas Carol’ was 17 years (older) on FX versus on Hulu.”
The new step came after a spending spree. Disney bought control of Hulu; it also bought the Fox movie studio and some of its cable networks, led by FX and National Geographic.
The Nat Geo shows became part of Disney+, which debuted Nov.12, 11 days after the debut of another streamer, Apple TV+. The FX shows are going to the new Hulu hub.
That hub will have the current FX shows – “Atlanta” and “Mayans M.C.” and such – and will also have most of the past ones. Landgraf said that includes “shows like ‘The Shield,’ ‘Rescue Me,’ ‘Damages,’ ‘Justified,’ ‘Sons of Anarchy’ … more than 40 shows. Nearly the entire FX brand will be available.”
Here’s a breakdown on what’s coming when:
– “DEVS,” March 5. A science-fiction tale about software that predicts behavior, it’s visually dazzling and mentally complex. “This is science-fiction that is barely fiction,” said actress Allison Pill.
– “Mrs. America,” April 15. A mini-series about the effort to pass the Equal Right Amendment, it has movie stars – Rose Byrne, Elizabeth Banks, Tracey Ullman, etc. – as feminist icons … and Cate Blanchett (shown here) as Phyllis Schlafly, the central force in stopping them. She was “the original disruptor,” said Dahvi Waller, who wrote it. “She was an incredibly effective grassroots organizer.”
– Two more shows. “A Teacher,” this summer, views the complexities of a teacher’s affair with her student. “The Old Man,” this fall, has Jeff Bridges as a former CIA guy on the lam.
FX and (a day later) Hulu
– “Breeders,” March 2 and “Dave,” March 4, both new. One is a clever British comedy about a couple (Martin Freeman and Daisy Haggard) overwhelmed by parenting. The other is based on Dave Burd, a Jewish kid in suburban Philadelphia who used funny videos to become a rap star.
– “The Most Dangerous Animal of All,” March 6, a new, four-part documentary. It meets a man who has strong (but not conclusive) evidence that his father was the “Zodiac Killer.”
– And many returning shows. Coming soon are “Better Things” (March 5), “Cake” (March 5 on FXX), “What We Do in the Shadows” (April 15) and a compelling new edition of “Fargo” (April19), this time with Chris Rock in 1950s Kansas City.