“I don’t think enough people have a sense of what’s going on right now,” Ancier said. “It’s all moving so quickly.”
Landgraf is reluctant to talk publicly about projects he considers creative failures, because that can break a bond of trust with producers. Asked recently about a mixed critical reaction to the most recent season of “Sons of Anarchy,” Landgraf conceded the season was “very sprawling” and difficult to follow. He said watching the season as a whole on DVD, for example, brings a different reaction where it’s easier to make connections between twists and turns.
He was once in the same shoes as his producers. For five years before coming to FX, Landgraf was president of Jersey Television, which made “Reno 911!” and other projects.
Still, the experience helped teach him that honesty was the lifeblood of the creative process. He was often frustrated with how often network executives would string him along, never really telling him what they thought about the shows he was trying to sell them.
“What I really wanted to know was, `Do you like it or don’t you like it? What can we do to make it work?’” he said.
He worked in the 1990s at NBC entertainment, during that network’s golden years with “Friends,” “Frasier” and “The West Wing.” The network’s subsequent collapse _ he left in 1999 _ provided another valuable lesson.
“They had some great success,” he said. “Then they lost sight of the kind of courage and risk that it took to create that success in the first place. They got to thinking that it was their legacy. They didn’t take the kind of risks necessary to stay on top.”
For Landgraf, trying to discuss his business with some degree of candor also has an unanticipated benefit.
“Reporters,” he said, “have a greater tendency to believe what I say.”
EDITOR’S NOTE _ David Bauder can be reached at dbauder(at)ap.org