Everyone knows that the Emmys never nominate horror programming, which is why FX’s AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM is nominated for fifteen Emmys this year – uh, wait a minute.
FX President John Landgraf takes some time during a break at the Television Critics Association press tour to discuss the Emmy love for his network’s show that has “horror” in its title. The AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM nominations include Outstanding Miniseries or Movie, Outstanding Actress (Jessica Lange, who won an Outstanding Supporting Actress Emmy last year for playing a different role in the series’ first season), Outstanding Supporting Actor (James Cromwell and Zachary Quinto) and Outstanding Supporting Actress (Sarah Paulson). The third installment of AMERICAN HORROR STORY, subtitled COVEN, begins on
JOHN LANDGRAF: What I will say is, I think for example GAME OF THRONES’ nomination [for Outstanding Drama Series] is particularly impressive because there are zombies and dragons in that show. I think horror or fantasy elements are something you have to row against in order to get Emmy love, whereas it’s not a surprise that the one show we made where it’s a movie star wearing five-thousand-dollar Chanel suits, DAMAGES, was the one that got nominated. There is a certain amount of snobbery in the Emmy voting, and I think that genre pieces, when they’re sci-fi pieces or horror pieces, or really violent pieces, do have to push a little bit against the grain. I would give BREAKING BAD a lot of credit for breaking through, just given how violent and how dark it is, because I think Emmy voters classically really would like something more like HOUSE OF CARDS. That’s very glowing, burnished, it’s got a movie star [Kevin Spacey] in it, it’s got a star movie director [David Fincher] directing it.
AX: But do you then feel doubly proud of AMERICAN HORROR STORY for overcoming the prejudices to get all those nominations?
LANDGRAF: I did. I think they’re representative of the fact that the technical crafts, from acting to cinematography to production design, are just stunning in that show. It’s really, really a bravura piece of filmmaking.
AX: AMERICAN HORROR STORY a closed-ended series with a new story and new characters each year, even though a lot of the cast come back in different roles. Do you have any idea of how long you’d like to keep AMERICAN HORROR STORY going? As long as the producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk want to keep it going?
LANDGRAF: Yeah. I mean, it went places in a cinematic way, in a filmmaking way, that were really stunning and unique last year, and this year, it’s really different from a tone standpoint this year than last year, so part of what’s exciting to me about it is, it can just reinvent itself every year.
AX: What made you decide to do a horror series?
LANDGRAF: I think for us a lot of it is about finding that sweet spot of where what the audience is interested in commercially at this moment in time and something of excellence and some literary merit intersect. So we’re not taking RICHARD III and filming it and putting it on TV, we’re not taking HAMLET and putting it on TV, we took HAMLET and we put it on an outlaw biker gang [in SONS OF ANARCHY]. I’m open to any genre as long as it’s potentially really good.
AX: You’ve just moved IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA and THE LEAGUE and TOTALLY BIASED WITH W. KAMAU BELL to FXX, but WILFRED is still on FX. Is FXX going to be primarily a comedy network?
LANDGRAF: I don’t think that FX or FXX should be just a comedy or a drama network.
AX: You had said WILFRED didn’t do well this year ratings-wise in Season 3 as it had done in the past, but you added that was because it was programmed against the NFL. Are you going to give it a chance for a Season 4?
LANDGRAF: Yeah, I suspect so.
AX: And a scheduling question. FX tends to premiere Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Is there any thought of doing anything on Saturday nights?
LANDGRAF: The median age of our channel is thirty-eight, which means that in the demographic that we sell, eighteen to forty-nine, there are nearly as many people under thirty-five than over thirty-five – they’re just not available on Friday and Saturday nights to watch television in any great measure. Interestingly enough, USA had been programming on Friday nights for years, and they finally just moved their whole schedule, lock, stock and barrel, from Fridays to Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursdays. And there’s another thing, too – people when they have work the next day have a tendency to watch the show in a little bit greater measure when you put it on the air – they tend to watch things. As they get to Friday and Saturday, they’re more likely to watch the shows that they have piled up on their DVD from Blockbuster or go to Netflix, because they have more time, because they don’t have to get up the next morning, so it’s become a time when there’s a little bit more DVR and DVD and Netflix-type viewing, Fridays and Saturdays.
AX: So it still doesn’t seem advisable …
LANDGRAF: I don’t think so. But you know what? Somebody will try it. It will be right or wrong. Maybe it will be us. Not this year.
AX: Anything you’d like to say about FX’s programs or TV overall?
LANDGRAF: No, listen. I think individual channels – they succeed or fail with individual shows. We may think that there are certain things that are big hits right now that don’t have a lot of creative merit, but the truth of the matter is, the audience has a profusion of quality and variety that’s better than it’s ever been, and I think they’re probably over-saturated with the amount of choice they have, and I think relatively happy. So it makes it harder to satisfy somebody who’s satiated and happy, but it also represents a really interesting challenge, I think, creatively and as a programmer. So it’s a good time, actually, I think to be in television.
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Article: Exclusive Interview with FX President John Landgraf on AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM and WILFRED