| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Aug 20 Television cable network FX
revels in its minimalist slogan "Fearless," but it could also
opt for "It's OK To Fail," "We Have A Long Way To Go," and "Not
For Everybody's Taste."
FX is hard to sum up these days. Even John Landgraf, chief
executive of the network owned by Twenty-First Century Fox Inc
, says he cannot "cleanly and simply articulate the FX
The basic cable outlet made waves a decade ago as a scrappy
purveyor of edgy and somewhat outrageous shows such as 2003's
"Nip/Tuck," but now stands out for some of the most acclaimed
and innovative work in the flourishing U.S. television industry.
No show represents that evolution better than "Fargo," the
miniseries based on the cult movie by the Coen brothers that is
the favorite to earn FX its first Emmy for a program at
television's top awards next Monday.
For Landgraf, a writer and producer who reads 90 percent of
the network's scripts, "Fargo" could have meant "potentially
humiliating and spectacular failure."
"The thought occurred to me that the best way to honor your
favorite film is to not make a crappy miniseries based on it,"
But Landgraf said he did with "Fargo" what he always does:
listen to the creative people and trust them to get the
storytelling right rather than telling them how to do it. And if
they fail, that's part of the network's culture of no safe bets.
"When you have gatekeepers who are making sure people do it
the way that everyone else did it, what are you creating?,"
Landgraf said at his office on the Fox lot. "You are creating a
vast sea of sameness."
If industry recognition is anything to go by, then the FX
formula seems to be working. FX Networks earned 45 Emmy
nominations, including 18 for "Fargo" starring Billy Bob
Thornton and Martin Freeman. Miniseries "American Horror Story:
Coven," comedy "Louie," cold war drama "The Americans" and biker
saga "Sons of Anarchy" were also among nominees.
That is less than half of premium cable network HBO's 99
nods, but FX is now right behind stalwart broadcasters CBS Corp
and Comcast Corp's NBC.
The risk-taking at FX is also good for business at Fox,
which is vying with HBO and streaming company Netflix Inc
for original projects in the highly competitive TV
"They have made a lot of bold bets over at FX and I think
you are going to continue to see more out of them along those
lines," said Tony Wible, media and entertainment analyst at
Janney Montgomery Scott.
Critics say the twists in the FX slate are surprising.
"It has been interesting to watch them come out of the box,
this tough little street-fighter of a network, and now they are
relaxing a little bit, and saying 'let's experiment with art and
horror'," said Los Angeles Times TV critic Mary McNamara.
"Fargo," she said, was "unbelievably successful on every
level." And then FX brought in film director Guillermo del Toro
to make his vampire horror tale "The Strain."
Del Toro, famous for creating dark fantastical worlds on
film, said Landgraf called him with a message he had never heard
before in his career: "Be as off-kilter as you want."
"The Strain" is now one of the top new series on U.S. cable
television, and FX renewed it for a second 13-episode season
But "The Strain" also highlighted how FX sometimes pushes
too far for some tastes. Promotional billboards showing a worm
coming out of a bloodshot eye drew a backlash from parents of
frightened children and were taken down. Landgraf calls it a
"miscalculation" and now wishes he had chosen another image.
After 10 years at the network, Landgraf says his work is
only about half finished. And while FX isn't for everyone, he
believes more viewers can be pulled in with more diverse
"There's a long way to go," he said. "I think we are viewed
as more of a male brand than I want to be."
(Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Ken Wills)