When John Landgraf came to FX in 2004, he was overseeing only one channel and it had only two original series -- The Shield and Nip/Tuck.
Now, Landgraf runs three channels -- FX, FXX and FXM. Among them, that's twenty original shows.
A big part of that expansion came when Landgraf created FX productions -- which put the network on the comedy map with shows like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Louie. FX has also co-produced acclaimed dramas like Sons of Anarchy, Justified and Fargo.
At this summer's Television Critics Association gathering, one of the most talked-about events was not one of the many presentations on new shows. Instead, Landgraf grabbed attention with his declaration that we've reached "peak TV," and that there is simply too much television. Not only could he not keep track of all the new scripted shows, he couldn't even get a handle on all the programmers cranking those series out. According to Landgraf, the herd must thin.
Clearly his talk touched a nerve. "Peak TV" became the buzz phrase of the summer in the TV business. Some critics agreed with Landgraf; some said Landgraf was merely disappointed that FX shows like The Strain and The Comedians had not performed better. A number of television executives said they agreed that there may be too much good TV, but said there's never enough great TV.
When Landgraf joined us in the studio, he stood by his earlier statements. With so much choice, Landgraf said, we're losing a kind of common social ground. He acknowledges that television in an industry in transition, and the coming years will have to bring change, both in terms of the number of new shows created, and how those shows are then stored, accessed, measured and advertised.
Landgraf also challenges the utopian myth that places like Netflix and Amazon are always the ideal place to make a show. We've had guests on The Business who have series on those streaming services and every time, there's been the same chorus from those showrunners: if you make a show at a traditional cable or broadcast network, you get bombarded with notes. At Amazon or Netflix, you get total creative freedom.
But Landgraf says his impression from talking to showrunners is that the experience at Amazon and Netflix is not quite that perfect. Sometimes you need notes. Or even if you don't need notes, you at least need attention, which is what Landgraf thinks might be lacking at these streaming services.