The odds may eventually catch up with FX, but that’s not stopping the net from branching out big time.
Batting an impressive .750 on original programming — network prexy and baseball fanatic Peter Liguori can appreciate those stats — with hits “The Shield,” “Nip/Tuck” and “Rescue Me” and only “Lucky” failing to last beyond one season, FX is unleashing a slew of new projects.
Net recently announced both a new one-hour comedy block to begin in summer and two dramas — one from Steven Bochco and another starring Emmy winner Andre Braugher — giving the basic cabler five original dramas.
“Over There,” created by Bochco and Chris Gerolmo and launching in July, centers on a U.S. Army unit sent to Iraq on their first tour of duty and the ramifications of the soliders experience both at home and abroad.
“Thief” stars Braugher as the leader of a sophisticated robbery crew during a period of tremendous personal and professional crisis. Skein will preem in 2006.
“Starved” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” are the first original comedies FX has launched since “Lucky” debuted in 2003.
And with the imminent start of reality skeins “30 Days” from Oscar nominee Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”) and “NASCAR: 360,” FX will have more than doubled its current original programming output to seven shows.
“Starved,” from Eric Schaeffer, takes a look at three guys and a girl who battle eating disorders. Rob McElhenney created and will exec produce “Philadelphia,” about a group of friends who own a bar.
” ‘Lucky’ was a really good show — and an expensive show — but the lesson I learned was that you need to put more than one comedy on at a time,” says FX entertainment topper John Landgraf. “It’s hard to get traction when you only have one show.”
While “Lucky” didn’t fare well in the ratings, it was significant for the net in that it picked up an Emmy for comedy writing — the first first for a basic cabler.
Schaeffer wrote, directed and co-starred in the “Starved” pilot, which has a seven-episode order. He will exec producer with Dan Pasternack and understands that while it may be hard to turn food disorders into a laffer, its universality makes it work.
“The show is very identifiable,” he explains. “Nine percent of people have a challenging relationship with food. … Dan and I knew Landgraf from when he was at NBC and we knew FX wanted a half-hour comedy that was both edgy and human. Addiction was a topic that we loved. Alcohol and drugs are something people have less an identity with than food, which cuts across all cultural lines.”
“Tens of millions people suffer from eating disorders,” Landgraf says. “It’s an edgy concept and certainly has a common thread.”
“Philadelphia” marks McElhenney’s first series as a writer and he will also co-star. Both shows are being produced inhouse at FX.
Landgraf says that while the net was under pressure to introduce a comedy block to offset its drama-heavy lineup, there won’t be any ratings pressure on either series right away.
“We could succeed below a 2.0 rating,” says Landgraf, an exec producer on Comedy Central’s “Reno 911.”
“We have built up an infrastructure and awareness from the consumer,” he says. “We’re ready to expand.”