Football season starts this week, and we here at Hollywood Prospectus are very excited about it! To help spread the word about this cool sport, we decided to highlight some of its biggest stars' most shining moments off the field and under the bright lights of showbiz. Because whether it's a charmingly self-aware sitcom cameo or a sincere dramatic performance, nothing steals a scene like a giant human trained to run into other humans for a living.
Looking back, it was easy to spot the signs. It started with the wild binging on the first-run rights to Hollywood movies, an exercise in quality-irrelevant hoarding not seen since Billy Bob and his terrifying tsunami of plastic toys. Then there was the subtle transition of the little-watched Fox Movie Channel to the marginally more-watched FXM. Finally, in January, Broadcasting & Cable spilled the rest of the unverified beans: FX was considering splitting itself into two, an act of media mitosis that would potentially segregate the network's comedy from its drama and leave its best show — the hilariously sad Louie — in genre limbo.
I should have known better than to assume that FX president John Landgraf — the man who empowered Louis C.K. with a six-figure check and a Steadicam in the first place — would ever do anything quite so timid. This morning in Manhattan, in addition to unveiling a new network slogan borrowed from the applications to be Ryan Murphy's assistant ("Fearless"), Landgraf confirmed the scuttlebutt: A new channel, FXX, will debut this September, with a focus on the much-coveted 18-34-year-old demographic. As expected, fratty stalwarts It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The League will migrate to the new network (both were also renewed through 2014) along with a second season of Legit and the pleasantly surprising Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell, which will be expanded to five nights a week. But Landgraf went to great lengths to explain how this split differs from the two established models for multiplicity in broadcasting, the "plex" strategy used by the hundreds of HBOs and Showtimes and the "sister/lovers" policy Turner employs with its temperamentally distinct offspring TNT (drama) and TBS (comedy).
There was a time, in a more analog era, when the phrase "I laughed, I cried" was considered the highest of praise (especially if the work in question also happened to be better than Cats). But in an increasingly subdivided media landscape, one in which niche narrowcasting is the order of the day, networks are increasingly trying to make you do either one or the other. Late yesterday, news broke that FX was considering undergoing the television equivalent of a schizophrenic break and splitting itself into two distinct networks, each targeting a different sentiment. One, FX prime (or FX Classic, or Locutus of Borg), would continue to broadcast its signature envelope-pushing (and tongue-swallowing) dramas like Sons of Anarchy and Justified. The other, a new, comedy-and-youth-focused channel, potentially ready to launch this fall, would rather unimaginatively be called FXX. (I assume FX2 was taken out of consideration because Brian Dennhey's quote was too high.) FXX would be built around FX's existing stash box of successful, lowbrow (and lower budget) sitcoms like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The League, as well as the outrageous backlog of Hollywood movies the network has been gobbling up over the past two years like Garfield let loose at a lasagna factory.
Chris and I recorded this pod late on Monday afternoon, after a long day of transcribing, power-chugging caffeine, and dispatching snatch teams throughout the Middle East. So it’s somewhat understandably all over the map, starting with Rick Ross’s Black Bar Mitzvah (1:30) and ending with an apocalyptic plague of viral vampires (42:50). In the meantime, we found time to laud Pitch Perfect (6:24) (and spar over its perfectly fine star, Anna Kendrick, a.k.a. Millennial America’s Sweetheart) and debate the merits of Homeland Season 2’s surprising second episode (17:00). From there, we let the leaves turn in our hearts and minds: Chris wanted to wax lyrical about the energy-efficient hayride he went on in Griffith Park while I was stuck previewing the new season of The Walking Dead (32:45), which returns on Sunday. A far less bloody, but no less gross program is also returning this week — FX’s The League — and both Chris and I celebrated the fact that one of our favorite things about it is that it consistently provides us with absolutely nothing to say. Ah, silence. The rarest commodity in a podcast. And the best part of any bar mitzvah, no matter the color. L’chaim!
Saoirse Ronan (Hanna, Atonement) will star in the adaptation of Meg Rosoff ’s 2006’s young adult book How I Live Now, which will be directed by Kevin McDonald (Last King of Scotland). In the book, a young American girl named Daisy is sent to live with extended family on a farm in England; then, when her aunt is stuck in Norway and England is invaded by an unnamed force, Daisy and her cousins are left to fend for themselves. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “The part of Daisy was highly-coveted amongst the teen-thespian set.” Which means: As we speak, Justin Bieber is somewhere attempting to comfort an inconsolable Selena Gomez. Grade: B+ [HR]
The Thanksgiving episode of The League (the show about friends in a fantasy sports league) that aired last night was one of the strongest episodes of any sitcom I've seen recently. Like the best outings of its FX sister shows Louie and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, it was a perfect pitch delivered with intensity and precision, culminating in a series of escalating gags that made me laugh as hard as anything this year. It was another reminder that cable allows for possibilities even the new raunchier networks won't.