I’m back at the office, knocking out some columns, but I spent the morning at the Television Critics Association Press Tour listening to the presentations from FX.
First up was the cabler’s chief, John Landgraf, who talked frankly about the channel’s hits ("The Shield," "Nip/Tuck, "Rescue Me"), its ratings disappointments ("The Riches") and its failures ("Over There," "Dirt").
His point was, when you do as many series as FX does, and you do them on edgy or unusual topics — "Over There" was an Iraq War drama; "The Riches" is a class drama about identity-stealing grifters — you’re bound to hit a rough patch now and again.
He also pointed out that while FX does a lot of original series for a basic cablenet, it doesn’t have the resources of a broadcast network, so sometimes a good show with a small audience may have to give way to an untested idea with a greater potential upside.
Overall, Landgraf sounds more like a sensible, rational decision-maker than like a hypercaffeinated carnival barker — a type of network executive not unknown at Press Tour.
The sessions focused on season two of the legal drama "Damages, " the first season of which I enjoyed a lot last summer (Ted Danson was there; draw your own conclusions); the new motorcycle-club drama "Sons of Anarchy" (looks like fun; I’ll probably be doing a set visit); and the final season of "The Shield" (on Sept. 2, one day before the "Anarchy" premiere).
I did the set visit for "The Shield" months ago on the streets of Boyle Heights. It was during the WGA strike, when it wasn’t certain if creator Shawn Ryan could come off the picket line to oversee editing of the final episode. Luckily, it worked out.
This has always been one of my favorite shows and one that I have consistently loved and watched (including recently re-watching the first season on DVD while listening to the commentaries).
This is a contrast to "Rescue Me" and "Nip/Tuck," whose sharp turns into bizarre areas have seriously dented my once enthusiastic support.
For years, Michael Chiklis has been promising me in interviews that, once "The Shield" is over, he’ll share his opinion of his character, maverick LAPD Detective Vic Mackey. I plan to hold him to it.
Tomorrow, ABC begins.