FX seems to have a great relationship with their showrunners. What is the secret to having a show that does well, and giving them the freedom that they want, to tell the story that they want?
JOHN LANDGRAF: I think maybe the most important thing that I or anybody at my company and any of my colleagues can do is establish a trusting, productive, collaborative relationship with creative people. I think that’s job one. And that can’t be a passive relationship because you have serious and difficult things to talk about with somebody who does a show on your air. You’re going to have bad moments, and you’re going to have fights and arguments. I don’t think I ever had any relationship with any showrunner, over time, with whom I didn’t have conflict.
That said, if you look at the more than a decade of history FX has had in this business, we’ve never fired a showrunner. We’ve actually only had one person who created a show ever leave a show as the showrunner, and that’s David Zuckerman, who created Wilfred and who is still an executive producer of the show, but voluntarily and, in fact, intentionally handed the show to his handpicked disciples, Reed [Agnew] and Eli [Jorné]. That was his election, not ours.
So, we’re batting 1,000, in terms of retaining the creator of our shows, from the beginning to the very end of the shows, and I think that’s because these shows are very personal. They’re not shows that are plug-and-play, where you can pull out a showrunner and put in another showrunner. The dramas are like long-running novelistic narratives. They’re like 90-hour movies, and the author of the character and the author of the thematic material needs to complete the journey. I think many of you would agree that there have been a lot of really great shows, and some shows that have finished up really well. I think The Shield is right up there in the top five or the top ten, in terms of the best finishes. What would that show have been, if Shawn Ryan hadn’t been the guy that wrote the last season?