With yesterday’s announcement (via THR) that cable network FX is adding yet another television series to their development slate that comes from movie blood (this one is a spin on 1992’s The Last of the Mohicans, with that feature’s co-writer again returning to James Fenimore Cooper’s novel of the same name for historical entertainment), the network’s transformation from “channel that plays Fox reruns over and over” to “original programming dynamo” seems nearly complete. Well, nearly.
The network has steadily turned out solid original television programming over the years – including shows like Nip/Tuck, The Shield, Rescue Me, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Damages, Sons of Anarchy, Justified, Archer, The League, Louie, Wilfred, The Americans, and American Horror Story – building the sort of slate that any network would love to have, and yet FX still doesn’t seem to get the same respect as other cable networks with their own original programming (like the current big gun, AMC).
So why is that? Because what FX doesn’t have is its own brand identity – there is nothing about these shows that feels indelibly “FX-y.” In fact, every show currently airing on the network could easily be divided up along other network lines (The League could be HBO, and Justified is easily AMC, Louie could have a home at Comedy Central, and on and on). How can FX make “FX” finally sound like any television lover’s favorite network?
By forgetting traditional “television lovers” and going straight for movie lovers. Turns out, the possible secret to FX’s television programming success just might be buried in its tossed off movie-centric slogan “FX Has the Movies.” While the network itself is trying to make a simple, one-line tagline (“Fearless”) happen, they still market their movie marathons and their big programming gets under the “FX Has the Movies” tag (their next big premiere? True Grit). And what do they have coming up? A whole mess of in-development television programs rooted in cinematic sensibility, pedigree, and talent.
The Last of the Mohicans
The newest program in development at the network takes its cue from the 1992 Daniel Day-Lewis-starring feature. That film was directed by Michael Mann and featured a script by Chris Crowe and Mann (with adaptation work by John L. Balderston, Paul Perez, and Daniel Moore, along with the 1936 screenplay’s inspiration, as penned by Philip Dunne). Crowe himself is back to help adapt James Fenimore Cooper’s classic historical novel again, as the series will aim to tell “the story of America’s beginnings as a nation as told through the eyes of Cooper’s classic characters.”
The network will also turn to another historical novel to launch the epic-sounding limited series, Conquistadors. Based on Kim MacQuarrie’s “The Last Days of the Incas,” the series will focus on Spanish Conquistadors Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro (who brought down the Incan empire, despite being almost unthinkably outnumbered), and teenage royal couple Manco Inca and Cura Occlo, who launched the rebellion against them. Just how satisfying does a small screen take deep historical material sound? Better than a quick two-hour movie hit, but just as inherently “cinematic.”
Another look at the nutty Puritan settlers who “discovered” America? Sounds snoozy, right? What if we told you that Paul Giamatti was producing it?
Another FX series with a big cinematic pedigree and a plot that sounds perfectly suited to the big screen treatment. This one centers on “an international luxury hotel in Paris [that] turns into a hellish trap when it becomes the center of a terrorist attack.” On board to produce? Names like Same Mendes and Pippa Harris.
It will also be written and executive produced by Richard McBrien, who has also had success with big-time television outings, like Merlin and Wallander. Also? It just sounds great. Imagine the effects, imagine the production design, imagine the intrigue.
Who wants a dark turn in their television? You do! Mad Dogs comes to us by way of the British series of the same name, and “follows the reunion of four forty-something guys who head to Belize to visit their old school friend, when things take an unexpected and dark turn.” Still better? Mad Dogs will be produced by Shawn Ryan, who previously produced both the beloved Terriers and The Shield for the network.
Did you think we were done spouting off big name directors who are taking on producer duties for new FX shows? Nope. Alexander Payne will help produce the historical Sutton, which will trace the remarkable life of Willie “The Actor” Sutton – the most prolific bank robber in American history, and one who doesn’t get his due when it comes to sweeping entertainment. Sutton’s story is perfect for a movie, but it will be even better and richer as a series.
They Marched Into Sunlight
Another adaptation of a historical novel, Stephen Gaghan’s They Marched Into Sunlight is a Vietnam War-set drama, based on David Maraniss’ book of the same name. The six-part series will chronicle both the frontlines (with an emphasis on the attack on the Black Lion battalion in 1967) and at home (centered on the student protest against Dow Chemical, also in 1967).
Still not sold on FX’s ability to translate great movies into great television? Than you’ve probably yet to hear that the network is bringing back Fargo by way of a ten-episode series, executive produced by the Coen brothers. It will feature new crimes and new characters, but promises to have the slick and sick humor that made the original a classic.