[08/08/09 - 10:38 AM]
FX at TCA: Landgraf Nixes "Testees," Touts Pilots
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- "We had an extraordinary moment of success in the two-year span that 'The Shield' and 'Nip/Tuck' and 'Rescue Me' were all launched," FX topper John Landgraf told reporters at the TCA summer press tour during his network's executive session on Friday. "And now that those shows are reaching maturity -- and 'The Shield' is obviously off the air and 'Nip/Tuck' is going to go off the air after 19 more episodes -- to me that represents an opportunity."

Landgraf proceeded to tout his development slate of six pilots, two of which have already been ordered to series: animated spy comedy "Archer" (due this fall) and the Timothy Olyphant-led drama "Lawman" (due in the spring). Also in the works are dramas "Lights Out" (from Justin Zackham) and "Terriers" (from Shawn Ryan and Ted Griffin) as well as comedies "The League" (from Jeff and Jackie Schaffer) and an untitled half-hour from comedian Louis C.K.

The cable channel also confirmed "Nip/Tuck" will return for its sixth season on Wednesday, October 14. It'll join previously announced fall returnees "Sons of Anarchy" (Tuesday, September 8) and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" (Thursday, September 17).

Coming in January then will be season three of "Damages" followed by a new cycle of 18 episodes of "Rescue Me" in the late spring or early summer. Landgraf added that "we're actually contemplating expanding that order. Right now, we haven't made a final decision, but it might actually be slightly more than 18."

The FX chief was also candid about the lack of Emmy nominations for "The Shield" this year: "It was disappointing. I think Michael Chiklis did some of the finest acting work I've ever seen. I think Walt Goggins definitely deserved an Emmy, and I think the show deserved multiple Emmys -- CCH Pounder -- for writing. I just knew it wasn't going to get it. So it is what it is. We're proud of it, and we move on."

And the downturn in the ratings for "Damages" in season two: "I think that one of the -- I was, you know, plainly disappointed with the ratings last year. You know, it's a show that is a really demanding show. I mean, it's one of those shows where you can't watch three episodes out of thirteen. You can't watch five out of thirteen. You can't watch seven out of thirteen. You are in or you are out. And I think that type of programming doesn't particularly suit the current programming environment and lifestyle of most people. I think they are more interested in dating than marriage, you know, when it come to shows. You know, they want to, kind of, dip in and dip out. You know, frankly, I think a lot of people catch up with that particular type of serialized programming.

They may let it stack up in the DVR until they have three or four and then feast on it, in which case, we'd get no credit for it, not only with advertisers, but we wouldn't even get -- Nielsen wouldn't even tell us anybody watched it if it was after seven days, or they wait, and they buy the DVD, and they watch it together. It's both exciting and also disconcerting that after a show like 'Damages' comes on the air, we keep hearing for the rest of the year, "I finally caught up with it," you know, or "I bought the DVD, and I watched it, and boy, I had a great weekend, and it's like, you know, awesome." You know, we got zero credit for that whatsoever from Nielsen or from any advertisers."

Landgraf nevertheless was optimistic about his network's overall numbers, especially for "Rescue Me": "The thing that's really fascinating to me about 'Rescue Me' this year is when you look at -- we do something now where we track what we call -- it sounds like such a B.S. term, but -- total media impressions. What that means is, basically, everyone we can measure who is watching the show anywhere. So that would include on VOD or Hulu. So it's similar to what you get from HBO, basically, when they give you their bundled number of everybody watching it On Demand and elsewhere. And so when you look at that number, even though 'Rescue Me' is in its fifth season, it was off the air for 18 months, it's only down 5 percent in viewership, 5 percent, which is remarkable. Now, take a look at the Tuesday night at 10 p.m. audience. That's down 32 percent. Okay? So what you are seeing is structural change in the television-viewing audience in the 18-month span that 'Rescue Me' was off the air.

That is more DVR penetration, more DVR usage, VOD deployment of basic cable, which HBO has had that for a while, but basic cable has made available in VOD. That's fxnetworks.com. That's Hulu. That's the audience just sort of spreading out and not watching shows when we put them on. When you look 18 months ago, 83 percent of the people watching 'Rescue Me' were watching it Tuesday nights at 10:00 in live television, and now, 65 percent of the people are watching it Tuesday nights at 10:00. So there's just been a very substantial -- it's the leading edge but a very substantial change in viewership. So that's hard. You know, it's hard to lose that sense of watercooler moment even though we know that, virtually, the same number of people, you know, around four and a half million people a week, are watching the show."

Lastly, Landgraft also confirmed last year's entry "Testees" won't be back, at least for U.S. audiences: "You are not going to see 'Testees' again, although, actually, it has been picked up for a second season for Canadian television. That was interesting. It was a show that was initiated and developed at FX, but it was a Canadian producer named Kenny Hotz who did it. And so Canadian TV picked it up afterwards and asked them if they could co-produce it, and we said sure. And then, when we canceled it in America, they had a really successful show in Canada, and they had sold it worldwide, and they decided to keep on making it. And they asked us, you know, whether we would continue with it, and we decided not. By the way, I mean, for me, I think 'Testees' was really funny, but I will say this. I think -- and I said this to Kenny. So I'm not talking out of school. I think, when you look at comedy -- we are doing something that's quite a bit different... I think the thing about 'Testees' is I think it was just a little too juvenile at the end of the day. Maybe we shouldn't have called it 'Testees.' Maybe that was part of its challenge, and I'll take responsibility for that. But I do think there was a lot of really funny stuff in that. Anyway, it's still going in Canada."

  [august 2009]  


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