“Do you want it now, or do you want it good?”: FX CEO John Landgraf explains why your favorite show isn’t airing this year

He says you’ll thank him later.
He says you’ll thank him later.
Image: Photo by Frank Micelotta/Invision/AP
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Pasadena, California

FX announced today that two of its most critically acclaimed shows, Atlanta and American Crime Story, won’t return until 2018. CEO John Landgraf said there’s one simple reason for the delays: His network values quality over punctuality.

Both shows premiered in 2016 and were presumed to return for their second seasons sometime this year. But Landgraf said he’d rather wait longer, and thus force fans to wait longer, if it meant they’d stay as superb as critics deemed them to be in their debut seasons.

“Do you wait it now, or do you want it good?” Landgraf asked a room full of TV writers and reporters at the Television Critics Association (TCA) winter press tour in Pasadena, California today.

Landgraf’s TCA executive session is routinely one of the highlights of the tour for critics who must sit through hours of panels each day of the two-week event. The CEO coined the term “peak TV,” and sometimes devotes his panel to discussing the rapidly growing number of original scripted programs across broadcast, cable, and streaming networks. Today, though, he had to field questions about why two of FX’s best shows won’t be coming back for a while.

Atlanta, which nabbed two Golden Globe awards earlier this week, won’t air this year because its creator and lead actor, Donald Glover (with whom FX just inked a sweeping development deal), is busy with other projects, namely playing a young Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Han Solo Star Wars film.

American Crime Story, meanwhile, just isn’t ready quite yet. The anthology series, which fictionalized the infamous O.J. Simpson murder trial in its first season, will explore Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in its follow-up season. FX showed a sizzle reel of several upcoming shows at its TCA session, though there was no footage from the upcoming season of American Crime Story.

According to Landgraf, only 35% of FX’s revenue comes from advertising, down from 50% 13 years ago. As a result, the network has some more wiggle room if a show isn’t getting the best ratings. Rather, what matters more is its cultural cachet: Do critics like it? Is it carving out a niche in the cultural conversation?

Indeed, prestige factors strongly into deciding whether or not to pickup or renew a show. That’s likely the same reason why Landgraf believes fans will accept having to wait for new seasons of Atlanta and American Crime Story.

“Can it be something in the culture that survives, even after its ultimate finish or cancellation?” Landgraf said.