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FX Networks Chief John Landgraf on Future of ‘Fargo,’ ‘American Horror Story,’ ‘Feud’ and ‘Atlanta’

John LandgrafFX Executive Session Panel, TCA
David Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

FX Networks CEO John Landgraf is preparing for a big transition in the coming weeks as Disney completes its purchase of 21st Century Fox.

Landgraf told the crowd at the winter Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena, Calif., on Monday that he expects FX’s mandate to produce distinctive high-end programming stay the same even as the company formally shifts to a new owner.

Landgraf said he’s encouraged by indications that Disney wants FX to increase its output as part of the company’s broader mission to build a global streaming platform. But he has no designs on a massive step-up of content, lest FX lose the human “curatorial” touch that has defined the service under Landgraf’s watch.

“I don’t want to use data and I don’t want to use the qualification of anything anyone would watch anywhere at any time,” he said. “I want to use some smaller qualitative filtration systems that I would call our brand. I’m much more interested in that than sheer volume. But I’m really grateful that the FX brand has a future and (ability to generate) growth in the streaming business. I think it’s going to be tough for channels that don’t have that kind of access.”

Landgraf also reiterated that FX Networks’ move to Disney does not mean that the sharp edges of many of its shows will be smoothed out. “Any increased output at FX will be measured, focused and (driven) by an unwavering dedication to quality and our high batting average,” he said.

During his wide-ranging 50-minute Q&A, Landgraf offered some updates on new and returning FX series.

“Fargo”: Showrunner Noah Hawley is at work on a fourth season of the anthology series loosely inspired by the 1996 Coen brothers’ movie of the same name. Landgraf said he expects the series to go into production next winter, which indicates a 2020 premiere at the earliest. “I’ve read the first script. It’s fantastic, I absolutely loved it,” he said, without offering any hints about the storyline.

American Horror Story: Producer Ryan Murphy’s move to an exclusive content pact with Netflix will not deprive FX of future seasons of the horror anthology. Landgraf said he expects to see “many more seasons” of “AHS,” which is expected to bow its ninth season this year and has been renewed through season 10.

“American Crime Story”: The true-crime anthology series from Murphy’s shop is developing three to four ideas for its follow-up to last year’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace.” “The writers are working,” he said. He confirmed that producers have dropped the idea of doing a season focused on the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“Feud”: This series from the Murphy shop is on hold for a bit as they search for a worthy follow-up to 2017’s “Feud: Bette and Joan.” The project will move forward when Murphy “gets inspired by something.” Plans for a season to focus on the tempestuous marriage of Britain’s Prince Charles and Diana Spencer have been tabled.

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”: FX’s signature comedy series is about to make TV history as it heads into its 14th season this year. “I’m just astonished, I never thought it would be the longest-running live action sitcom in television history,” Landgraf said. He credited stars/creators Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton for still pouring their all into the series. “They are the most active schemers you’ve ever seen,” he said. “I think they made some of the best episodes of ‘Sunny’ we’ve ever seen” in 2018, he said. The show could run well beyond season 14, he said “as long as we come to some kind of business terms that fits both of our needs.”

“Atlanta”: Fans of Donald Glover’s quirky comedy will have a long wait for new episodes. The third season won’t be eligible for the 2019 Emmys as it will not be on the air in the first half of this year. Part of the delay has been related to Glover’s busy schedule as a multi-hyphenate and music star (as Childish Gambino), as well as some personal issues Glover has dealt with involving his extended family. But Landgraf and his team have moved beyond the notion that shows have to premiere on a rigid yearly schedule in the interest of getting the best material possible.

“The enemy of excellence is time,” he said. “If you want to get things right, you have to stop, slow down, shut down for a period of time.”