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FX chief warns of viewer ‘malaise’

Billy-Bob-Thornton-in-Fargo-012EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL TELEVISION FESTIVAL: FX Networks boss John Landgraf has reaffirmed his view that the glut of scripted programming being produced could lead to a market crash as audiences reach a point of overkill.

Langraf told delegates here in Edinburgh that he feared “television has become work for consumers” and that he was “sensing a little bit of malaise”.

“It’s really great that we have a much wider diversity of stories and protagonists,” he said. “That’s really benefited us, but whenever you choose something you’re uncrossing something else and you get this sense of malaise. I’m concerned that television has become work for consumers. It’s become laborious to watch television.”

Langraf first made similar comments at the Television Critics Association tour in the US earlier this month, and he quipped today he would “always be known as the guy who said there’s too much television”.

He added that there were currently more than 400 scripted shows in the US and that was “too much. Business is eating the creative tail at the moment. All businesses over-expand and then consolidate, and three-hundred shows would be better than five-hundred”.

However, Landgraf said the desire to tell stories would mean television remains an important media platform. “Maybe what defines us uniquely as a species is storytelling. We love them and always will. I’m not saying storytelling and the television industry will go away,” he said.

Landgraf attributed the growth in scripted to a market lull in the independent film scene in the US that came after a similar boom and subsequent over-spending through marketing. Television could go the same way of the current trend continues, he said. “We’re headed for a time where there is some level of crisis ahead,” he added.

FX currently airs critically well-received shows such as The Strain, Louie, Archer and Fargo, and pointed to Zack Galifianakis comedy Baskets and true crime anthology series American Crime Story as potential upcoming hits.

Landgraf also provided some colour on his reputation for watching every roughcut of every show he commissions, saying this process was vital for him to understand what the creator wants to achieve.

“Why should an athlete listen to a coach if the coach doesn’t know what the athlete is going through? You have to be reflective with the work.”