Networks are into day 7 of presentations to TV reporters gathered at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Los Angeles. News out of Monday’s FX panels includes information on upcoming series, a rivalry with Netflix, and more.
Typically, FX Networks and FX Productions CEO John Landgraf addresses reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour about the state of “peak TV.” (For the record, approximately 496 scripted television series premiered original episodes in the U.S. in 2018.) The network boss used his 2019 time to focus on FX’s performance in critics’ end-of-year “best TV” lists versus competitors including HBO and especially Netflix.
The network’s research department compiled data from 166 critics’ best TV shows of 2018 lists, and established that FX aired 14 original series across all genres that could be included, HBO had 70 that qualified, and Netflix had “an insane 530 original programs” that could’ve made year-end lists.
“In 2018, 13 out of 14 FX series made a critic’s best shows of 2018 list. That is a 93 percent conversion rate, above the 80 percent we have averaged for the past few years, and, frankly, above any reasonable expectation,” he said. “Compared to our 93 percent, HBO placed 20 of its 70 programs on year end best lists, or 29 percent. And Netflix had 62 of its 530 original programs make a list, which is a 12 percent conversion rate.”
Additionally, the network calculated that out of 2,237 slots in the 166 lists, Netflix led with 479 mentions (21 percent total), then FX with 334 and HBO with 327 (both 15 percent total). Amazon earned 168 mentions (8 percent), and BBC and AMC tied with 6 percent.
“When you drill down to lists that name 10 best shows of 2018, which we feel measures the top of the top echelon, Netflix still led with 273 inclusions, but now is followed much more closely by FX with 259 and HBO with 225, with the others well behind,” Landgraf said. “And when you drill down even further to the best of the best counting only shows ranked No. 1 on a critic’s list that did numerical rankings, which is 118 of 166, FX leads all networks or streaming services with 53 No. 1s, or 45 percent of the total. Second by this measure is actually BBC America with 20, or 17 percent — paced by the outstanding Killing Eve, and third was Netflix with 14 No. 1s, or 12 percent, followed by HBO with seven No. 1s, or 6 percent.”
To summarize, per Landgraf, “FX had less than 3 percent as many at bats as Netflix, but we had almost four times as many No. 1 rankings on year-end best lists. If we expand the time range to look at the past five years of top 10 inclusions on annual critics’ lists, HBO leads with 22 percent, followed by FX and Netflix tied at 19 percent, with all others far behind. So it has remained a three-horse race for quite some time.”
The Streaming Observer analyzed the streaming movie libraries of Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, and Netflix, and found that Netflix has 596 Certified Fresh movies available to watch – more than the other services combined.
According to the study, just 232 of Amazon Prime’s 17,461 available movies are Certified Fresh (1.3 percent), 38 of HBO Now’s 815 (4.7 percent), 223 of Hulu’s 2,336 (9.6 percent), and 596 of Netflix’s 3,839 (5.5 percent). So while Amazon Prime has the most movies available to watch, Netflix has the highest-quality films by far.
Noah Hawley originally went into his FX X-Men–adjacent series, Legion, with a three-season plan. And ahead of the show’s TCA panel, the network confirmed that the upcoming third season will be the series’ last.
“I think endings are what give stories meaning. I said last year I’ve never done a second season of anything,” Hawley said on the panel. “I always thought about this as a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end, and it felt like three acts of a story, and so this just felt like the natural place to end it.”
When the audience met David Haller, he was in a psychiatric hospital after a suicide attempt. Throughout the first two seasons, he’s gotten on medication and left the hospital, but then thought that maybe he didn’t need his meds and went in a downward spiral. In the third season, Hawley said, “The question is: Can he get back to some kind of good place, or is he gone for good? Once we tell that story, it just feels like we’re going back to the beginning of the cycle, potentially, so it just felt like the right place to end it.”
Dan Stevens, who plays Haller, agreed.
“As Noah said, great stories have endings,” Stevens said. “They don’t just stop. And when Noah first discussed this story with me, I knew where it was going. I didn’t necessarily know how, but I was promised that it would be weird and beautiful, and it certainly has been. I really like the way this twisted rainbow is emerging.”
While the cast hasn’t filmed the finale yet, Stevens teased that “there’s definitely a destination David wants to get to,” and David’s destination and Hawley’s “will neatly coincide, I hope.”
Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi starred in and directed their vampire feature film mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. But when it came time to adapt the film for television, neither chose to be on screen. Waititi had to step away from the project to direct a little movie you may have heard of, Thor: Ragnarock, but Clement executive produced the series and didn’t write himself a role on purpose.
“I have done it in the past, writing a show that I’m in, and it’s very difficult to do both,” Clement told reporters on FX’s What We Do in the Shadows TCA panel. “And at the time, we thought Taika wouldn’t be able to be in it because he was making [Thor], so it didn’t make any sense to have not him and the rest of us. It was set in America. It’s different people.”
The series takes place in the same world as the film, so the New Zealand vampires still exist. In the TV format, there’s more time to spend developing each character and storyline and the writing is much more planned out than in the film, according to the creators.
“[On the film] we wrote a script, and we didn’t show the actors the script at all, and so we shot a whole movie like that,” Waititi said. “We would tell the actors what they should be doing and what they should be talking about.”
He and Clement would describe the scenes from the actors, who would then improv the scenes and keep going until they got the joke they wanted.
“As a result, we had about 160 hours of footage that we had to get down to 90 minutes, and that’s why it took 14 months to edit,” Waititi said. “It was very exhausting. And I thought that we didn’t really want to do that this time. Going to give the script to the actors this time.”
On the show, the actors would perform what was written in the scripts, but then would improvise later takes. And a lot of the time, Clement revealed, “that stuff makes it in.”
FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan featured many real-life characters, and one of the people portrayed in the series, Olivia de Havilland, sued over that portrayal. The creators of the network’s Fosse/Verdon series don’t necessarily anticipate that happening on their series for two reasons: one, they’ve been “incredibly careful” when they talk about both living and non-living people, executive producer Steven Levenson said. But two, the fact that Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon’s daughter, Nicole, is a producer on the series, helps more than anything else.
“Having Nicole is an incredible asset because she’s able to share not only the facts as she remembers them, but the emotional experience,” executive producer Joel Fields said. “Our goal is to explore a relationship between these two characters and to do it in an authentic way, and we are never looking to whip something up. So I don’t think that’s been an issue for us. It’s been easy to follow what the truth was as we see it and to try to let the drama flow out of that.”