The TV world keeps transforming. Streamers soar; broadcast networks stumble. But what about all of those in-between — the basic channels that come free to cable subscribers?
“The basic-cable business is really struggling to compete,” John Landgraf, the FX chief, told the Television Critics Association. “I think FX and AMC are kind of holding the fort right now.”
Both looked potent in his staff’s tabulation of critics’ top-10 lists for 2022. FX was No. 2, trailing only the HBO Max streamer; AMC had the No. 1 individual show — the final season of “Better Call Saul.”
And both had impressive lineups to show the TCA:
● AMC has invested heavily in the underworlds of zombies (three “Walking Dead” spinoffs coming) and Anne Rice novels (“Interview With the Vampire” and the current “Mayfair Witches,” with many more coming). But it also has the beautifully written and played “Lucky Hank” pilot film, with Bob Odenkirk (the “Saul” star) as a cranky college professor.
● FX has the final seasons of two of its best (albeit most violent) shows, “Snowfall” and “Mayans MC.” It also has new projects, led by two richly crafted ones: “Dear Mama” is a five-part documentary about Tupac Shakur and his mother, a Black Panther leader; “Justified: City Primeval,” a mini-series, moves federal marshal Raylen Givens (Timothy Olyphant) out of Kentucky and into Detroit.
Both networks use streaming to prop up their ambitions. AMC airs shows on cable, then takes them to its AMC+ streamer. FX shows go to Hulu; some — “The Bear,” “Reservation Dogh,” “Fleishman is in Trouble” — skip cable and are Hulu-only.
That’s possible because of corporate deals, Landgraf said. “I feel incredibly fortunate that Disney bought Fox and, along with it, FX and incorporated us into … ambitious streaming.”
Others have been less fortunate. When Discovery bought Warner Brothers (including the former Turner networks), it began canceling scripted shows. Samantha Bee’s weekly satirical show went quickly; the witty “Miracle Workers” had announced a Jan. 16 starting date, then was delayed.
Others have also pulled back. The Pop network won a pile of awards for “Schitt’s Creek” … then dropped out of the scripted-show business; the Paramount Network has triumphed with “Yellowstone” … but the same producer’s subsequent shows go directly to Paramount+. Many channels have been quiet lately, or stick with lightweight projects — Christmas movies and such.
But FX (like AMC) booms ahead.
Damson Idris, the “Snowfall” star, put it bluntly: “I believe in 100 years, people are still going to be talking about what we did.”
The FX line-up includes:
- Feb. 22: “Snowfall” final season, FX.
- March 10 and April 7: Documentaries under the “New York Times Presents” banner, FX. The first is on Anthony Pellicano, a private-eye hiding sins of the rich and famous; the second is on rapper J Dilla.
- April 5: “Dave,” FXX.
- April 21: “Dear Mama,” FX.
- Summer: “Justified: City Primeval,” FX; “The Bear” directly on Hulu.
- More, led by “Mayans,” “Breeders,” “The Old Man,” “Archer,” “Welcome to Wrexham,” “What We Do in the Shadows” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Writer-producer Noah Hawley is wrapping his fifth “Fargo” season, then jumps into an “Alien” series. Writer-producer Ryan Murphy has his “American Horror Stories” projects; he hasn’t set a new “American Crime Story,” but will launch “American Sports Stories” with the a look at the late football star Aaron Hernandez.
- And more Hulu-only shows, including “Reservation Dogs” and several international ones — “Great Expectations,” “The Full Monty” and an epic re-telling of “Shogun.”