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FX CEO Says ‘True Detective’ Will “Have To Prove It’s Not Just A Vehicle For Movie Stars”

FX CEO Says 'True Detective' Will "Have To Prove It's Not Just A Vehicle For Movie Stars"

Given the pedigree of talent assembled for “True Detective” season one—Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan—and the actors already being tipped for season two (Colin Farrell), not to mention the widespread critical acclaim for the show, it’s understandable rivals might be a little jealous. But leave it to FX CEO John Landgraf to fire a shot at HBO about their prestige drama.

“…’True Detective’ is going to have to prove it’s not just a vehicle for movie stars,” he said at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, adding: “[Nic Pizzolatto] is going to have to write something truly great every single year. I think [‘Fargo’ writer] Noah [Hawley] has already proven he can write something really great.”

It’s an odd statement given that FX is home to “Fargo,” which owes any interest it had going in to the Coen Brothers directed film (with the pair also putting their name on the thing as executive producers). Not to mention it had recognizable faces like Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Bob Odenkirk and more in various roles. But Landgraf thinks “Fargo” doesn’t need the fancy bells and whistles of “movie stars” to get viewers to pay attention.

“[It would be] nice to have a movie star in the second cycle of ‘Fargo,’ but I don’t really think it’s necessary. I think we needed Billy Bob Thornton [in Season 1], but I don’t think we need somebody next year. It will bring more buzz [to have a big name], but frankly, I think we can do it with unknowns,” he said. “I think Allison Tolman brought as much as to Fargo as Billy Bob Thornton. We could do the whole show with a group of talented young Allison Tolmans.” 

So, the broader question is this: does the concept of “True Detective” and “Fargo” carry enough interest to have them cast with lesser known actors in the lead roles? Or does the tough material (particularly for the former), require attractive stars to pull in an audience that might otherwise stay away? Well, HBO knows that stars bring in viewers, and it’ll be interesting to see if Landgraf sticks to his guns as the ’70s set, second season of “Fargo” gears up. [via Morning After/TV]

Update: FX CEO John Landgraf has clarified his statements regarding “True Detective.” Please see press release below.

LOS ANGELES, July 23, 2014 — On Monday, July 21st at the FX Networks presentation at the 2014 Television Critics Association (TCA) summer press tour, FX Networks & FX Productions CEO John Landgraf held a 45-minute executive session, which included opening remarks followed by a wide ranging question-and-answer session with the media assembled in the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

In his prepared opening remarks, John Landgraf praised the award-winning and Emmy nominated drama series True Detective and its creator Nic Pizzolatto. On the record, as reflected in the official transcript issued to TCA members following his press conference (when speaking of the new anthological story form pioneered by Ryan Murphy with American Horror Story), Mr. Landgraf stated:

“Nic Pizzolatto is doing it very well, brilliantly well with the outstanding True Detective.”

Later in the Q&A session, he restated that belief regarding the first season of True Detective. He said: “…Nic (Pizzolatto) is going to have to prove he can write something truly great every single year.”  In several prominent publications, Mr. Landgraf was quoted as saying, “Nic is going to have to prove he can write something truly great.”   The omission of the words “every single year” that completed Mr. Landgraf’s sentence, implies that Mr. Landgraf believes what Mr. Pizzolatto wrote is not great, which is the exact opposite of what Mr. Landgraf said in that comment as well as his initial comment in his opening remarks.

Since the initial publication of those inaccurate stories, numerous additional outlets have picked up those stories and incorrectly, mistakenly and unfairly passed them off as fact, even going so far as to write further critical analysis and commentary based on that misrepresentation. In addition, these falsehoods were forwarded repeatedly to key executives at HBO and to Mr. Pizzolatto himself.   

Any outlet that has published this false story has an obligation to publicly correct the record.   They owe an apology to Mr. Landgraf, to every one at HBO and True Detective, and especially to Mr. Pizzolatto.

Mr. Landgraf said today:

“It seems unreasonable that I should have to issue a clarification for something that was stated clearly in the first place, but nevertheless I repeat, for the record, that I watched True Detective and loved it. I think Nic Pizzolatto wrote something truly great (and Mathew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson and Cary Fukunaga also did absolutely stellar work).  Nic has created a very high bar for himself, and as a fan of the show and based on his work in season one, I have no doubt he will clear it by a mile with his second incarnation of True Detective. Also, for the record, I am an avid viewer and fan of many of HBO’s outstanding original series, and I have a profound respect for Richard Plepler, Mike Lombardo and their entire gifted team.  Anyone who claims to love television but doesn’t pay attention to the consistently excellent work that HBO is fostering, would be suspect in my book.”

See full excerpts of TCA transcript below.


Before we get to the final announcements, I want to recognize Ryan Murphy for his bold and groundbreaking invention of a new television format with AMERICAN HORROR STORY.  We describe it as the “anthological miniseries.”  This innovation opened up new creative opportunity for writers and producers to tell stories a different way.  Ryan is doing it brilliantly with AMERICAN HORROR STORY.  Nic Pizzolatto is doing it very well, brilliantly well with the outstanding “True Detective.”  And I’m happy to announce today that Noah Hawley is going to move forward on a second incarnation of FARGO with an entirely new story, cast of characters, and time period.  And Noah and his fellow executive producer Warren Littlefield will close our presentation today with a Q&A session at 4:30.  So that’s the super secret panel that we didn’t announce earlier.  We haven’t worked out the timing of production, but the scripts are actually already well in progress.  And the earliest the next FARGO would launch will be a year from this fall.  Again, I thank you very much for being here and for your time, and now I’m happy to answer your questions.


QUESTION:  On FARGO, first off, are snow and cold essential to the look and feel of FARGO?  And No. 2, in the casting, it seems like you’re facing the same situation “True Detective” is, where you almost have to come up with at least amarquee name because you had Billy Bob Thornton, someone who doesn’t generally do TV.  Do you feel that way?  I mean, you can also discover unknowns as you did with Allison Tolman.  But do you feel it would be a letdown if you didn’t have at least one sort of marquee actor or actress who hasn’t really done much TV before?

JOHN LANDGRAF:  I’m not going to answer the first question just because I want Noah to be able to answer that question, because I spent a lot of time talking to him and Warren about the question of whether snow and cold are essential to FARGO, and I think he has an answer to it and I don’t want to preempt him.  And he’ll be here at 4:30

On the other question, I actually think we really needed Billy Bob Thornton.  I think the fact that he’d worked with the Coen Brothers before and that he, like other movie stars, bring a kind of imprimatur.  I think Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson brought that to “True Detective.”  And I definitely think Billy Bob brought it to FARGO.  For one thing, just sanctioning the quality of Noah’s material from his standpoint just opened the floodgates of every other actor wanting to be involved in it and we very quickly got Morgan Freeman and a whole bunch of other really great actors once Billy Bob signed on. 

But I don’t think, actually, that we need him.  You know, I think “True Detective”‘s going to have to prove that it’s more than just a vehicle for movie stars.  I think it’s going to have to prove that ‑‑ Nic’s going to have to prove that he can write something truly great every single year.  Because if the writing is not great, it doesn’t matter who is in it.  It’s not going to be a great show.  I think Noah’s already proven that he can write something really great based on the sort of tone and world that was created by the Coen Brothers.  And I think it would be nice to have a movie star in the second cycle of FARGO, but I don’t really think it’s necessary.  I think we needed Billy Bob, but I don’t think we need somebody next year.  Because I think now the show, the title, the tone, the writing, the cinematography, the filmmaking, the storytelling are the star of that show, and it will definitely bring more buzz if we get big stars on it.  But frankly, I think we could do it with unknowns.  I mean, I think Allison Tolman brought as much to FARGO as Billy Bob Thornton, and she had never done a television show or anything on a national platform before.  And I think we could do the whole show with a group of talented young Allison Tolmans and it would be great. 

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