As TV reaches a state of sheer excess, one key player has been fairly quiet … until now.
That’s FX, now preparing for a surge on its own channels and on the Hulu and Disney+ streamers. “Our output hasn’t progressed as quickly as we planned,” said John Landgraf, the FX chairman.
Now it’s ready to fly. Returning to FX are “Snowfall” (shown here) on Feb. 23, “Better Things” on Feb. 28, “Atlanta” on March 15 and “Mayans M.C” on April 19 … followed by three new series – the animated “Little Demon,” the non-fiction “Welcome to Wrexham” and, this summer, the long-delayed “The Old Man.”
Beyond that, Landgraf told the Television Critics Association about 17 other projects. A couple (“Dave” and “Fargo”) are returning shows from the cable networks (FX and FXX); most, however, will skip cable and go directly to the streamers. They range from an “Alien” prequel series to some large mini-series – one on Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” another a “Shogun” reboot he calls “in terms of scale and scope, the most ambitious production in the history of FX.”
That history reaches 20 years on March 12, the anniversary of the “Shield” debuted. When Disney absorbed FX (by buying the Fox studios), there were worries that the channel would fade. Instead, Landgraf said, he’ll have the usual number of original shows on cable (jumping to Hulu and Disney+ the next day), while “radically ramping up the number of new shows” that skip cable and go straight to Hulu.
The expansion has been slowed by:
–The details of switching to Disney.
— The delays of Covid. “Better Things,” for instance, had a two-year gap between the start of last season and the start of this one. Pamela Adlon, the writer-director-producer-star, even flew to England to do some scenes, because Celia Imrie, who plays her mom, couldn’t fly here. “It was more important than all the other seasons to me,” Adlon said, because of the pandemic and “how tenuous life is.”
— The general tendency of FX to let shows take their time.
The starts of the first three “Fargo” seasons were about 18 months apart; the fourth one started three-and-a-half years after the third … delayed partly by Covid and partly because writer-producer Noah Hawley was doing other things.
Then there’s “Atlanta,” whose creator/star (Donald Glover) paused to play Lando Calrissian in a “Star Wars” movie. There’s a four-year gap between the start of the second season and next month’s start of the third; the fourth season, however, was filmed at the same time.
Also moving slowly has been “The Old Man,” with Jeff Bridges as a guy who dropped out of the CIA years ago and has been living off the grid. It gets a cable spot, as do “Little Demon” (an animated show about a mom trying to quietly raise her daughter – literally the spawn of Satan– in Delaware) and “Welcome to Wrexham,” a non-fiction series in which actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney buy a once-prominent soccer team and try to restore it to glory.
Mostly, however, Landgraf has projects headed to Hulu. They include “Alien,” “Shogun” and:
— “Pistol,” this spring, from “Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle. It’s a six-hour story of the Sex Pistols.
— “The Bear,” a comedy about a young chef, returning to his family’s sandwich shop.
— “The Patient,” which Landgraf calls “a taut psychological thriller.” It’s a mini-series, starring Steve Carell and produced by the people who did “The Americans.”
— “Class of ’09,” a mini-series starring Bryan Tyree Henry of “Atlanta” and Kate Mara of “A Teacher.”
— “Dear Mama,” the story of Tupac Shakur and his mother, a former Black Panther.
— “Kindred,” based on Octavia Butler’s 1979 science-fiction classic.
— Two more shows based on books, one fiction (Jesse Eisenberg in “Fleishman is in Trouble”) and one non-fiction (Andrew Garfield in “Under the Banner of Heaven”).
— “Retreat,” which has Emma Corrin (Diana in “The Crown”) in what Landgraf calls “a radical, modern re-invention of the classic whodunit,” partially filmed in Iceland.
— “Justified: City Primeval,” a mini-series that returns Timothy Olyphant to his “Justified” character. This one is based on a novel the late Elmore Leonard set in his hometown of Detroit.
— And two mini-series from Ryan Murphy, whose O.J. Simpson show helped mold FX’s reputation. One is about the New England Patriots, the other about the romance of J