TCA: FX chief: “There is too much television”

"There's too much TV" - John Landgraf. FX chief
“There’s too much TV” – John Landgraf. FX chief

Hulu Presentation: Mindy Project arrives in style 

FX president John Landgraf made waves at TCA last week during his network’s day at the Press Tour, stating there’s just “too much television”.

Too much TV? You don’t say.

He was referring to the 300+ scripted shows that dot the landscape, saying “it’s impossible to maintain quality control” – part of the reason why his Comedians – with Billy Crystal – failed.

Yes, there is a glut of good scripted programming – even yours truly doesn’t have time to watch it all. Nobody does, if you have a busy lifestyle. What’d you expect with the explosion of cable channels and internet streaming options over the last 20 years? And besides, the TV viewer decides what programming is good to them, not a group of network suits. It’s not for Landgraf to decide.

And more programming means more job opportunities for writers. Remember when those “reality” shows were all the rage, putting writers out of work? Don’t recall any idiot TV exec wailing about “too much TV” then.

Landgraf, like many network execs, are bitching because there is some “good programming” the audience rejected, Comedians being one of them. It just goes to show you have to be at the top of your game in this business. Getting by won’t cut it anymore.

Among other selected press tour highlights for FX and Hulu:

– Stephen Falk, creator of critically acclaimed You’re The Worst went off on how he writes about millennials despite being older than he is, saying he writes in different voices than his own and his writing staff keeps honing in on pop culture. The characters on the show aren’t exactly Ward and June Cleaver, and that’s okay with the cast: “I feel like delayed adolescence has become quite a thing in our culture,” says Aya Cash, who plays Gretchen. “What a grown-up is has changed as well, and you don’t have to hit the milestones you used to have to hit to be grown-up.

You’re The Worst, along with Archer, moves from FX to FXX this fall.

– Carlton Cuse talked about The Strain, and fans…enjoy the show while it lasts, because you’re getting only five seasons of it- though FX made an “official announcement” it was being renewed for a third season. The current season has New York struggling with an epidemic, while scientists aren’t succeeding against those transmitting the disease. There is a book this series is based off of, but Cuse is steering away from it because “to fill thirteen episodes in the first two seasons, there wasn’t enough (material) in the books.”

– Remember Sons Of Anarchy’s Kurt Sutter? Now he’s doing a show set in the 14th Century England called The Bastard Executioner. Here, he talks about violence on the show: “Violence, as absurd as it could be sometimes on Sons, it always came from an organic place. It was never done in a vacuum. The same mandate here. The laws and punishments were brutal and heinous, and that’s the reality of the world. There’s ways to portray that violence that don’t make it openly gratuitous. Anything that happens, be it battle sequences or execution or a torture scene, it comes out of story, and we see the characters conflict or non-conflict in carrying forth that violence, but it always has some ramification.”

Remember, there were lots of violence on Sons Of Anarchy too, and Sutter is used to it and the backlash. He avoids the “killing someone for the sake of killing someone” argument. When Sutter pitched the show to FX, he avoided   “where there’s just a head in a basket every week.” 

Bastard Executioner premieres on FX September 15.

– Switching over to Hulu, the main attraction was The Mindy Project, which premieres on the streaming service September 15, moving over from Fox, where it spent the last three seasons. It’s proof streaming services are stepping in to save shows after broadcast network cancellation – something syndicators did in the 1980’s did and cable networks did in the 1990’s.

And Mindy Kaling is grateful her show is saved. With the move to Hulu, her show doesn’t have to worry about network exec notes – not to mention more freedom from “standards and practices” or pestering from network affiliates. “The freedom of trying to say a joke and not have to neuter it or soften it is refreshing, says Mindy cast member Ike Barinholtz. “Emphasizing that streaming and online platforms make sense for more adult, niche oriented comedies, he added that the freedom cultivated by places like Hulu provides “a much more fertile ground for comedy.”

Though yours truly gave up on Mindy after eight or so episodes (though I may revisit this program in the future), give credit to Mindy Kaling for running one of the best creative operations in Hollywood. It’s not easy to produce, write, and act in your own show – and taking a lot of heat for decisions being made.

– Letting down a few expecting it, Hulu did not announce an ad-free version of the service, which had been speculated for a while. Both Netflix and Amazon has no advertising. But Hulu did announce it was releasing new episodes of its original programming one week at a time, dashing the hopes of bingers everywhere.