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Such The Drama King

FX's John Landgraf thinks awards are great -- though for him the nominations work too.


IN an increasingly niche business, John Landgraf, president and general manager of FX Networks, is striving for the non-niche. The 5-year-old basic cable channel aims for attracting both genders and is known for its mix of original, edgy and provocative programming, series such as "The Shield" and "Nip/Tuck."

What does an Emmy Award mean for FX?

It's a very important award in our business, but I tend to view the nominations as more important than the actual awards.

Why is that?

A nomination is indicative of a high level of achievement but I'm a person that believes it's extremely difficult to proclaim one performance or series the best of the year. Historically, what happens with the Emmys is that you have a lot of people voting for work they haven't seen before.

What's been the network's biggest win?

There's no question, it's Michael Chiklis ("The Shield"). It was historic. No actor or actress had ever won before from basic cable. It came out of nowhere. We still tend to think that it was a bit of a fluke. A lot of people didn't think "The Shield" had a prayer of winning anything, so I think they voted their taste. And I'm certainly glad they did. Michael certainly deserved it.

Despite the notable critical success of shows like "Rescue Me" and "Nip/Tuck," FX has still experienced some frustrations with the Emmys.

We've certainly had Emmy-worthy performances that have not been recognized and I think that the vast majority of critics who watch television for a living would agree with that statement. It's a narrow funnel; there's a lot of really good work being done and there are a lot of shows that deserved to be recognized. I know I have a parochial bias, but some of our shows are historically good and have been extremely influential and to me it would be a tragedy if they aren't recognized.

What would improve the situation from your standpoint?

I can't speak to what a perfect system would be, but they are trying new things. The blue ribbon panels [to narrow down the nomination choices]. We didn't fare very well last year and I was disappointed, but I thought the efforts to make change and improvements are worthy of praise.

Who is your main competition?

Our primary competitor is HBO. They had a period in the '90s where they really had a stranglehold on quality television. They really did. They still have a lot of momentum for being the unchallenged market leader in terms of quality and originality for all those years. We're only 5 years old as a brand and I believe if you look at the last five years, we've matched their output in terms of quality and originality.

FX has been heavy on the dramas. Any half-hour comedies on the horizon?

I'd really like to, but I have a specific problem. We find ourselves with six original scripted dramas, something no other pay cable channel has ever achieved in the history of television. I don't think we anticipated we would have six dramas, but we do. I would have liked to have found a companion to our remarkably funny and original comedy "Always Sunny in Philadelphia," because our brand is really well suited to support comedies.

FX recently spent $40 million to get "Spider-Man 3." What was behind that?

We started buying big Hollywood theatrical movies several years ago. We now have a significant inventory. We have "Spider-Man 2" and it's always valuable when you have a movie to have its sequel. It was a coup.

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