The FX cable network in the US is often spoken of in the same terms as HBO, Showtime and AMC – a premium cable network that produces quality drama above all else. It’s programming is described often as “Edgy”, “original” or a “fresh take”. That is all bullshit.
Owned by Rupert “Lower-than-the-lowest-common-denominator-and-a-scumfuck-despot-maniacal-devil-spawn” Murdoch, FX actually makes crap that is more offensive to my sensibilities BECAUSE it tries so hard to be original. Like hipsters striving to be “individuals” by all shopping at the same trendy inner-city op-shop. What you end up with instead is a feeling of insincerity and manipulation, that you have fallen for some kind of scam built on your own desires and that YOU, the viewer, were somehow complicit. How does that old saying go, “Don’t fuck me and call it a rose”? Something like that. At least with big network guff you know what you are getting, like buying lard from the supermarket – it is what it is labeled as. There is no pretense to higher intellectual or emotional goals. “We will get your rocks off and numb you to your depressing little lives” they whisper seductively to you as they advertise the latest comforting string of good-guys-catch-the-bad-guys-using-science hokum and pretty-girls-just-want-love vapid-a-thons. And they’re not lying to us, they are fucking us and telling us straight that they are fucking us. And sure, sometimes it feels good but when you want something a little less sleazy, a little deeper, you go to Premium Cable. But not to FX.
“Lights Out”, the latest truckload of sanctimonious drivel is heading for a well earned cancellation after failing to make any impression whatsoever in the cable ratings, being routinely belted by absolutely everything anyone wanted to put up against it. The premise, a retired heavy weight boxer hits hard times and has to do unpleasant things to support his family, is bad enough to begin with but when you weigh a lead balloon down with things like: a brother who makes “bad deals” with the mob; a degenerative brain injury as a result of his boxing; a chance to have a rematch with the guy that “robbed” him in his last fight then you are seriously drowning in some uncomfortably sentimental jam. The main character is a cheese wrapped, deep-fried cliché and every scene is painfully melodramatic and over acted. All of the support characters are cut-outs that are there to simply dress up the drama, providing a clumsy counterpoint to the central characters “difficult journey”. In short, it makes me LITERALLY vomit in my mouth to think that anyone thought this show was good.
The show it replaced was the critically adored “Terriers”, a cute little story about a couple of down-on-their-luck so-cal PI’s who get caught up in tangled web of deceit through no fault of their own and have to save themselves, their families, the town, the mayor etc. A clear cut case of a maguffin running rampage Godzilla style, laying waste to the plot and story all around it while the characters cower in fear and scream “What are we gonna do?!?” to one another. It too began badly and slipped down the ratings finally ending up with a smaller audience share in the US than “The Mentalist” gets in Australia. The audience blamed the networks marketing, the network blamed the audience and not one person stopped to consider that the show itself was just a bit crap.
Of course it’s not all doom and gloom over at Club Tedium, some of their shows rate quite well, like the appallingly confused and misdirected “Sons of Anarchy”, a touching family drama about a group of Bikies who have sworn off the evils of running meth in order to keep their town nice. They are of course deep-down-really-good-guys-who-care rather than actual bikies who are murderous drug peddling lunatics. Created by Karl Sutter, who worked extensively with Shawn Ryan on “The Shield” it is no surprise that SOA (as the kids are calling it these days) lacks any sense of moral compass, the former being particularly guilty of divesting characters of apparent standards as a plot device.
FX’s main problem seems to be a lack of proper direction for their programming. They bill all of their shows as edgy, original and creative trying to join the big boys HBO, AMC and Showtime, but the quality is just not there. Having said that though, the quality is not actually bad enough to get the kinds of ratings that say “Jersey Shore” gets.
If FX really want to be taken seriously they need to take heed of the critical AND popular success the other marquee cable networks consistently manage.
Of course, it’s not all bad, “Justified” suffers none of the pretensions of earlier programs and “Archer” is just great fun. But two shows does not a network make
As a last resort there is always just chucking it in and doing reality TV involving teenagers getting plastic surgery whilst pregnant, now there’s a ratings winner!