FX re-ups ‘Justified’

Series returns for Season 3 on cabler

After striking out with its two most recent original dramas, FX put the focus on the growth of its moody crime drama “Justified” and talked up its development slate during its upfront presentation Tuesday evening at a bowling alley in midtown Manhattan.

The cabler confirmed the third-season renewal of “Justified” and announced a 16-episode order for a third season of its cult-fave toon “Archer.”

FX prexy and g.m. John Landgraf told buyers assembled at the Lucky Strike Lanes that the channel will launch three new original dramas over the next year. The “American Horror Story” project from “Glee” co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk is likely to be the first out in the fall. A writing team for the show, toplined by Connie Britton, has already been assembled.

Net’s development slate includes drama “Powers,” a police procedural-superhero skein created by Charles “Chic” Eglee and based on the popular comics series.

Also in development is “Outlaw Country” — which Landgraf described as a ” ‘Sopranos’-esque family crime drama” starring “Winter’s Bone” thesp John Hawkes and Mary Steenburgen — and animated comedy “Townies,” created by “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” alums David Hornsby, Scott Marder and Rob Rosell.

Before the formal evening presentation, the media buyers in attendance were invited to take part in a bowling tourney or play pool at one of 10 billiards tables set up in front of a buffet stocked with all manner of fried foods. Buyers arrived at the lanes to find their names affixed to bowling shoes.

FX is coming off a tough run the past few months, with offbeat detective drama “Terriers” and the story of a down on his luck boxer in “Lights Out” struggling to find an audience. In addition to motorcycle drama “Sons of Anarchy,” the Timothy Olyphant starrer “Justified” is a pillar of FX’s primetime slate.

Through the seven episodes that have aired to date this season, “Justified” is averaging 3.9 million total viewers, a 16% improvement from season one. Also up 16% is the 18-49 demo figures: 2 million vs. 1.7 million. When repeat telecast and DVR usage is include, 7.2 million viewers overall are tuning in.

” ‘Justified’ was a critically acclaimed hit series in its first season, but the show has far surpassed our expectations this season,” Landgraf said. “Creatively, the show is on a roll. … We couldn’t be more proud of the work everyone has done.”

Created by Graham Yost and based on the Elmore Leonard short story “Fire in the Hole,” “Justified” also stars Walton Goggins, Nick Searcy and Joelle Carter. Yost and Leonard exec produce with Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly and Michael Dinner.”The show’s appeal speaks volumes to Graham’s fresh approach to storytelling,” said Jamie Erlicht, president of programming and production for Sony Pictures Television, which produces with FX Prods.

The renewal of “Archer” comes as part of FX’s plan to expand its comedy base. Comedies can be produced inexpensively, compared to dramas, and in success can be strong profit generators like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

Part of that plan includes Louis C.K. starrer “Louie,” which received critical huzzahs in its first season and will begin its second season in the summer.

Beyond its original series, FX still puts a premiere on carrying theatrical features in primetime. Although its aud skews male, FX said it will give more of a platform to pics with femme appeal, including the “Twilight” installment “Eclipse” and “Easy A,” as well as family-friendly fare such as “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Shrek Forever After.”