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‘Y’: FX’s Next Big Comic-Book Adaptation Could Be a Network Game Changer

TCA: There are a lot of reasons to get excited about the upcoming post-apocalyptic drama, based on Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra's comic.

Y -- CR: Macall Polay/FX


Macall Polay/FX

On Monday, FX gave an official series order for the adaptation of the iconic “Y: The Last Man,” marking the end of a long journey to the screen. There’s a lot to unpack in that announcement: In addition to providing the network a top-notch slice of sci-fi IP, Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra’s critically acclaimed Vertigo Comic also gives the cable network the rare opportunity to correct gender and genre gaps in one go.

While the series won’t launch until 2020, there’s reasons to believe it could be a cornerstone of FX’s future programming. And there are reasons to get excited about what that might look like, listed below.

FX Could Use Some Girl Power

Per FX, “‘Y’ traverses a post-apocalyptic world in which a cataclysmic event has decimated every male save for one lone human. The new world order of women will explore gender, race, class and survival.”

Technically, “Y” is the story of the one male survivor (Barry Keoghan) of this plague, but Vaughn’s narrative is filled with the fascinating female characters that surround him. The ensemble cast is led by Diane Lane as Senator Jennifer Brown, with Imogen Poots, Lashana Lynch, Juliana Canfield, Marin Ireland, and Amber Tamblyn. There are very few FX series with a majority-female series regular cast, and this is a welcome opportunity to balance that out.

FX Could Also Use Some Female Creators

While FX has made big strides in behind-the-scenes diversity, the number of female creators and showrunners is pretty low. Of the five series featured during the network’s day at TCAs, only one, “Better Things,” was created by a woman. And Pamela Adlon, prior to Louis CK’s firing by the network, shared that credit with her former collaborator.

Meanwhile, “Y” is co-created and written by Michael Green and Aïda Mashaka Croal, and the pilot was directed by “Lemonade” and “Master of None” helmer Melina Matsoukas. While Green’s experience includes co-creating the Starz adaptation of “American Gods” and earning an Oscar nomination for co-writing “Logan,” Croal has several years writing for the soap “One Life to Live,” followed by experience working on “TURN: Washington’s Spies,” “Jessica Jones” Season 2, and “Luke Cage” Seasons 1 and 2.

FX’s John Landgraf, in discussing the network’s lack of female showrunners with IndieWire, said that increasing diversity was “a huge priority,” and that “we just have to lavishly support them and help them develop. I mean, the whole enchilada for all of this is getting people in and working and then helping them matriculate upward toward the top jobs.”

FX Has a Genre Gap

FX announced Monday that surreal Marvel comics adaptation “Legion” will conclude with its third season, due later this year, which means that the network will have a hole in its lineup that’s perfect for another genre series with premium execution.

While sci-fi and fantasy series haven’t been a mainstay of FX, it’s never shied away from more fantastical fare, including “The Strain.” Another season of “American Horror Story” is coming, but with creator Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix deal, it’s not impossible to imagine that tapering off in the not-too-distant future. “Y” has the potential to deliver a similar kind of story with a new sense of realism, and a fresh aesthetic.

It’s unclear how FX will fit into new corporate parent Disney, but the message from Monday’s TCA tour was quality content was key to its future identity.

Creators Got the Time They Needed to Get It Right

“Y” won’t launch until 2020, but there’s been a decade of efforts to adapt the series; FX began development in 2015. For Landgraf, that slow burn is part of his philosophy toward FX as a whole. “When platforms are just putting hundreds of hundreds of shows on the air, everyone else feels a level of anxiety to get content, to get shows made, to get them out there, to remain a part of the conversation,” he said. “What cuts against that, from my standpoint, is that the enemy of goodness, of excellence is time, right? You just simply need more time, sometimes.”

Landgraf said sometimes this involves going back to the original source material. “It’s just not an easy adaptation, and it’s just taken us a long time to get it right. Ultimately, that’s what this is really all about,” he said. “When things are slowing down, what it is, is that, collectively, we’ve made a judgment that they need more time to tackle creative problems and try to get it right.”

And There’s a Monkey

In the comics, Yorick’s pet monkey Ampersand is the only other male survivor of the plague, and as seen in the official still, Yorick at least has a pet carrier handy. Which means Green is likely joking with his tweet below:

At this stage “Y” only faces one major issue…

The Title Is Going to Be a Problem

In the battle of “shows with titles that are nearly impossible for audiences to Google,” with “Y” FX may have officially beat Lifetime/Netflix’s stalker drama “You” and the Netflix rom-com “Love.”

During the 2018 summer press tour, Landgraf defended the choice to drop “The Last Man” from the original title by saying that “you tend to see one-word or two-word titles for television shows. Not always — “Orange Is the New Black” is more — but if you look at the preponderance of titles, they tend to be one or two words. And Y seems like a provocative shape. We can do a lot with it graphically. It’s a little mysterious. So at the moment, we’re just calling it ‘Y,’ yeah.”

There’s still time for a course correction; plenty of TV shows change their title before premiering. But even if “Y” stays “Y” until 2020, it will still be a show to watch.

Additional reporting by Ben Travers.

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