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Why Does Disney Want FX Guru John Landgraf to Manage Onyx Collective and Nat Geo? He’s John Landgraf.

The guy who coined "Peak TV," and brought you "Atlanta," "American Horror Story," and "The Bear," added some unlikely oversight on Tuesday.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 02: FX CEO John Landgraf seen onstage during the screening and conversation of FX's "Reservation Dogs" at Paramount Theatre on December 02, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by JC Olivera/Getty Images)

FX CEO John Landgraf onstage during the screening and conversation of FX’s “Reservation Dogs” at Paramount Theatre on December 02, 2021

Getty Images

When John Landgraf speaks, TV reporters don’t just listen — they frantically transcribe.

Let’s be clear: Landgraf is regarded as the genius television executive in Hollywood. When he speaks at the twice-annual TCAs (Television Critics Association), the ballroom is packed with faces that other executives will never see looking back up at them. His professorial preparation, droll delivery, and swift speech pattern (Landgraf speaks like the characters on Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing,” a show he developed at NBC) bring many, many words — and no fluff.

Instead Landgraf delivers news, a regular “Peak TV” (the term he coined) update, and thoughtful opinions on granular topics and the industry at large. He doesn’t dodge, he keeps spin to a minimum. A Landgraf executive session is must-see for TV critics, many of whom date back to the days Landgraf made “Friends” the staple of Must-See TV. Regardless of age, every critic in that hotel ballroom has disproportionately rewarded FX series with placement on their Top 10 lists, another FX research chart Landgraf likes to break out annually.

Landgraf is so well-respected he’s been dubbed “the mayor of television,” a nickname often credited to Rolling Stone’s chief TV critic Alan Sepinwall, who emailed us: “John gave himself the nickname, if you want to be technical. In one of his TCA speeches, he said something like, ‘If I was the Mayor of Television, I would [do something]. But I’m not the Mayor of Television.’ And several people in the room agreed after that he was now obviously the Mayor of Television. I may just have been the first one to publish something to that effect.”

Like we said above, it is a frenetic typing situation with Landgraf at the dais, and Alan won that particular race. Personally, we think of Landgraf as more like the Yoda of television, which serves the side benefit of Disney corporate synergy. (“The Mandalorian” Season 3, premiering today on Disney+!)

Perhaps it goes even further than that, and preacher’s kid Landgraf gets his TV ideas from a higher power. [Insert your own joke here about whether that’s God, Ryan Murphy, or Noah Hawley. A follow-up joke about Bob Iger is God is probably not necessary, though it sure can feel that way at The Walt Disney Company.]

DAVE "Enlightened Dave” Episode 9 (Airs Wednesday, August 4) -- Pictured: (l-r) Dave Burd as Dave, Ben Sinclair as Adams. CR: Byron Cohen/FX

“Dave” Episode 9: Dave Burd as Dave, Ben Sinclair as Adams

Byron Cohen/FX

Thanks to a promotion by his boss, Disney Entertainment co-chairman Dana Walden, Landgraf is no longer just the smartest person in the room at the FX offices — now, he will be the smartest person in the room at high-level meetings for the Onyx Collective and Nat Geo as well. Landgraf chose not to add those brands to his title, a person with knowledge of the plans told IndieWire, and his business card will remain “Chairman, FX and FX Productions.” That’s probably something between a legacy play and a gesture of respect for his fellow brand presidents.

The optics of putting a white man in charge of the Onyx Collective, which consists of content primarily made by people of color, may not be great, but it’s hard to argue with Landgraf’s ability to foster a premium TV brand focused on scripted originals. One way to keep the Onyx Collective, Disney’s collection of streaming shows that feature underrepresented groups, from being confused with BET fare, is by putting the guy who made the FXX and “FX on Hulu” brands sound like decent ideas.

Plus, Walden’s new senior-executive structure allows Tara Duncan, the Black woman who oversaw both Freeform and Onyx, to focus solely on Onyx. Duncan, 40, will report to Landgraf, 60, who can guide her in building the brand, which already won an Oscar for “The Summer of Soul.”

Walden, in a note sent to staff on Tuesday and obtained by IndieWire, said Onyx Collective “remains a huge priority” for Disney. Meanwhile, ABC Entertainment and Duncan’s former Freeform programming and development businesses have been combined under Simran Sethi, who will continue to report to Craig Erwich. It’s also a promotion for Sethi.

The Bear

FX’s “The Bear”


Nat Geo under Landgraf seems like even more of a stretch. Landgraf is known for top-tier, edgy scripted dramas; National Geographic is, well, not that.

“I can see Onyx fitting pretty easily into [Landgraf’s] purview. He’s great at scripted TV,” Sepinwall wrote us. “Nat Geo feels a bit more off-topic, but FX has had some success in documentary space, and Nat Geo’s scripted content could stand to be a whole lot better.”

Basically, Nat Geo’s scripted fare has consisted of the “Genius” and “The Hot Zone” anthology series, both of which last aired in 2021 (Aretha Franklin for “Genius” and anthrax for “Hot Zone”). “Genius” made some Emmy buzz, but admit it, when you think of Nat Geo TV, gentle nature shows are what come to mind.

That’s already changing. Courteney Monroe, Nat Geo’s president of content and a new Landgraf direct report, has been using her celebrity Rolodex far more regularly these days. She’s still got shows with zebras, sure, but also with Chris Hemsworth, James Cameron, and Ryan Reynolds.

Like Duncan, it’s no demotion for Monroe. With the shakeup, she’ll now oversee the brand’s digital footprint and even its print magazine, along with continued direct oversight of the cable channel’s original content strategy. Nat Geo’s TV strategy won’t suddenly shift to a slate more reliant upon scripted programming, we’re told.

Monroe used to report directly to Walden. This whole switch-up streamlines the suddenly very busy Walden’s reporting structure, we’re told, and Landgraf will not get “in the weeds” on Nat Geo or Onyx programming decisions. Overall deals may be a different story, our insider said.

This much we can promise: The summer TCAs are gonna need a bigger ballroom.

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