FX boss talks hits, misses

Landgraf says cable shows face tougher landscape

Although “Terriers” was canceled after one season and “Lights Out” has gotten off to a slow start, FX president John Landgraf isn’t dismayed about a ratings rough patch.

“We went six for six in critical hits,” Landgraf said Saturday at the Television Critics Assn. panel in Pasadena, in reference to the cabler’s last half-dozen series premieres. “I’m not discouraged. I’m excited. It’s a tough environment, but that means you have to jump higher and farther. Let’s go to it.”

“Lights Out,” which premiered Tuesday, went up against firstrun dramas on the Big Three as well as the impressive network debut of comedy “The Game” on BET (7.6 million viewers). Also, there was a big season launch for “Tosh.O” on Comedy Central while “16 and Pregnant” scored well on MTV.

Clearly the competition is fiercer than ever. Landgraf said there were 52 original series debuting in January and February — a stat he cited to prove the challenges in getting a new show off the ground.

Net is also at a disadvantage because, with none of its original shows airing before 10 p.m., there’s not always a compelling lead-in to draw viewers.

By the evidence of “Terriers” and “Lights Out,” however, Landgraf is fully cognizant that critical hits don’t always equate to eyeballs. To elaborate the fact, he cited AMC’s “Mad Men” as a show universally beloved but one that isn’t even near the top of the list of cable’s most-watched shows.

“There has always been a disconnect between hits and critical acclaim,” Landgraf explained to the assemblage of journos. “You guys can move a needle. You raised a huge din with ‘Mad Men,’ and that has become the most critically acclaimed series in TV history, moving from being a ratings failure to ratings mediocrity.”

Sometimes critics and ratings do mesh, however, as with “Sons of Anarchy.” Creator Kurt Sutter’s motorcycle club drama was the No. 4 series in the 18-49 demo in 2010, and if FX hadn’t been off Dish Network for four weeks due to a carriage fee dispute, it likely would have climbed to third.

Net announced that newest comedy series “Wilfred” — a 13-episode Australian import in which a despondent Elijah Wood hangs out with an imaginary dog — will air at 10 p.m. Thursdays in the summer, followed by season two of “Louie.”

In other programming news, the last episode of Denis Leary starrer “Rescue Me” will air Sept. 6, five days before the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. The first of nine episodes — the second half of the final season — will begin earlier in the summer.

Still in development is an adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis comicbook “Powers,” with a third writer now onboard. “Sons of Anarchy” will begin its fourth season in the fall.