You hear it more and more, especially from members of the Television Critics Association: There’s so much new TV out there, it’s impossible for any one person to keep track of it all—let alone watch it. And FX has the numbers to prove it. Ahead of its day at the TCA summer press tour, the network distributed its data on television ratings and series production, the graphical centerpiece of which pinged around social prior to the panels.
To date, TV viewers have been presented with 267 scripted series in 2015, and that’s leaving out non-English language and children’s programming. The tally already tops the number of shows produced in all of 2009, 2010, and 2011, and it’s a cinch to beat last year’s total of 371.
That tidal wave of content formed the introduction and throughline of John Landgraf’s executive session with the TCA, one of press tour’s most reliable State of TV addresses. By his research department’s estimate, the FX CEO said “2015 will easily blow through the 400 series mark.” “My sense is that 2015 or 2016 will represent peak TV in America and that we’ll begin to see declines coming the year after that and beyond.”
The raw data rings some alarms, but Landgraf remained upbeat and chummy during his executive session, remaining the only network boss who can so effortlessly blend the dirty of business of PR spin with insight about his products and level-headed looks toward what’s ahead. (It helps that FX doesn’t air much that requires PR spin.) Landgraf admitted that the amount of new TV premiering this year is preventing viewers from giving fledgling shows a second chance, hence the short life of FX’s most recent cancellation, The Comedians. Of course, in order to stay afloat, Landgraf must also contribute to the problem: This year, FX and FXX have broadcast upwards of 17 original dramas, comedies, and animated series. Soon adding to those numbers: The pickups and developing projects announced by the network during press tour, as well as the new and returning series it presented today.
But FX Networks has also found a way to keep its stream of programming fresh without technically contributing to the surplus: For as long as they run, Fargo and American Horror Story will feel like new additions to the lineup every season. Still, issues of viewing volume almost prevented some of the stars of Fargo from even seeing Fargo: “Some of ’em still haven’t,” joked showrunner Noah Hawley, following confessions from season-two players Ted Danson and Jeffrey Donovan. (Danson was a quick convert, however, telling reporters that he’d caught up in a two-day binge.)
The Bastard Executioner is more demanding with its time travel, as Kurt Sutter winds the clock back to medieval Wales for his follow-up to Sons Of Anarchy. It’s also more demanding with time, period: The first two of its 10 first-season episodes will air as a super-sized pilot, a commitment to going long that Sutter and producing director Paris Barclay carry over from Sons. “The pilot’s two episodes, so it’s not overly long for two episodes,” Barclay said to a question about the nearly 90-minute (without commercials) running time . When Barclay paraphrased some advice from John Landgraf—“Let’s let the story breathe if it has to be this length, but here’s some things you could do”—Sutter offered a follow-up that wouldn’t look out of place in his notoriously blunt Twitter feed: “I think everything is fucking precious and it’s not.”
Critics were able to see the full extent of Sutter’s grungy Welsh preciousness, but the only footage of American Horror Story: Hotel screened for the TCA came in a pre-panel sizzle reel packaging bits and pieces (and limbs and corpses) from the show’s five seasons. This prompted a mid-panel rundown on the residents of the Hotel Cortez (with no specific mentions of returning guests) from the nine cast members in attendance. They include:
- Finn Wittrock as male model Tristan Duffy
- Cheyenne Jackson as “Will Drake, fashion icon” (Jackson’s words, though they could feasibly be from an American Horror Story script)
- Denis O’Hare as an employee of the hotel bar who’s adopts the persona of Elizabeth Taylor
- Chloe Sevigny as Dr. Alex Lowe, who’s married to Wes Bentley’s character and “dealing with a great loss” in the family
- Matt Bomer as Donovan, who has no connection to the folk singer of the same name but does have “very interesting relationships with the lady folk in his life”
- Wes Bentley as Detective John Lowe—because if one member of the household is holding down a classic TV occupation, the other might as well do the same
- Angela Bassett as Ramona Royale, an actress who frequents the hotel
- Kathy Bates as Iris, who runs the hotel and hopefully goes easy on the accents this year
- Sarah Paulson as Sally, a sexy addict to sexy drugs who is sexy and has a hatred for Iris in “a rather ancient way”—possibly ancient and sexy (the word “sexy” really got a workout in this panel)
For viewers looking to have Ryan Murphy assign them an American Horror Story persona all their own, Murphy presented this convenient personality test based on the show’s four previous seasons:
“I think the true horror fans love the first season because it really sort of is a very psychological season and it plays with a lot of very familiar tropes. I think people who really like drama love season two, Asylum. And then, I think you get into season three, which young people adored and we saw those numbers go up dramatically. The fourth season, I think, was sort of the most artistically arty season, so then you get those fans. And I think that the season we’re doing this year harkens back to the first season, which is much more rooted in, I think, honest, primal fears as the first season was.
Rounding out the day were two lively panels for The League and You’re The Worst, respectively finishing out and beginning their runs on FXX this fall. Starting August 10, Hulu subscribers will soon have one less excuse for missing out on You’re The Worst, the type of streaming deal that helped The League cultivate a larger following in recent years. Even so, some barriers to entry remained throughout the show’s seven year run, as reflected upon by cast member Paul Scheer: “I feel like the thing that’s always so funny to me about this show is it’s a show about fantasy football—people are like, ‘I don’t get that’,” Scheer said. “But yet, like, a show like Parks And Rec, people are are people really into local government?”
Neither show could claim to suffer from visibility problems: In the year they debuted, 2009, there were only 209 other scripted shows to choose from.