The Canadian Version – FX Edition

One of the few Canada-specific announcements to come out of the TCA tour was that FX and Rogers are launching FX Canada. Here’s a report from Alex Strachan. The report suggests that FX Canada could be used as an outlet for Canadian drama, though the plans appear vague at the moment; the only thing mentioned specifically is that City TV’s Murdoch Mysteries might turn up on FX Canada (where it might not necessarily fit with FX’s overall edgy style, but then again, FX in the U.S. shows a lot of reruns that aren’t completely on-brand).

The emergence of FX as the next cable channel to get a Canadian version (after HBO) is arguably a sign of how prestigious the network has become in the U.S.; despite the commercial failure of its two most recent dramas (Terriers and Lights Out) it’s probably doing better with critics at this point than AMC.

An interesting thing about FX is that although its most-watched, best-known shows are dramas – Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, Sons of Anarchy, Justified, and possibly American Horror Story if it takes off – it’s probably having more of an impact with half-hour comedy. FX renewed most of its half-hour comedies at the TCA: Louie, Wilfred, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. These shows, along with the animated Archer, are ferociously popular among young male viewers, which is why they generate an exceptional amount of online discussion. (It’s Always Sunny, in particular, seems to be held up online as a model of what a non-traditional sitcom should be, and Archer is heading in that direction.) John Landgraf’s model for these shows, as explained here, is to make comedy on an extremely low budget, allowing him to avoid too many notes from Fox – Louis C.K. was supposedly told that if he did Louie on a higher budget he’d have to take notes from the parent company. In the case of Louie and Archer, the shows don’t have writing staffs, but have one person writing all the episodes. The low budgets and singular voice may help create a feeling of authenticity among younger viewers, while they also make the shows viable even if they don’t get a lot of viewers right away.

Other networks may be picking up this model, but slowly: NBC bought a very low-budget pilot called Best Friends Forever that is essentially an FX pilot – no money, created and semi-improvised by the performers, directed by Always Sunny‘s Fred Savage – that seems to be dipping a cautious toe in the water. I would not be at all surprised to see this kind of cheap, fast, small-staff single-camera comedy become more popular, or to see it become a bigger part of FX’s slate than the dramas.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.