It’s interesting, in this new age of cable TV known for producing dramatically higher quality shows than the networks, it’s usually AMC that gets all the praise. The holy trinity of Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead have earned them both critical and ratings success over the years, and they’re always the golden child of cable TV when we have discussions like this.
But honestly, though they have individual powerhouses, they lack a strong, consistent lineup. Breaking Bad is over. Mad Men is ending. You can’t have an entire network reliant on a single ratings hit (The Walking Dead) and AMC could soon lose their quality status if they can’t must up replacements for their fading legends.
Enter FX, a network with perhaps lesser hits. They don’t have shows bringing in 10 million viewers a week, and only a few are nominated for Emmys. But overall, I believe that if you take stock of their entire line-up and compare it to any other channel right now, they simply win with a large stable of consistently entertaining shows. This isn’t a new phenomenon, as the show has been home to great programs over the years from The Shield to Damages to Rescue Me to Nip/Tuck, but they have shown they’re able to keep their quality offerings coming, even when their old hits fade. See their roster below:
Sons of Anarchy
If FX has a Breaking Bad equivalent, it’s Sons of Anarchy. The show is heading into its seventh and final season, and over the years has been responsible for some of the greatest TV season arcs in history, if you ask me. I won’t say that the show has seen a BB-level spike in quality these last few seasons, and it may have peaked a few years ago, but it’s consistently worth watching, and one of the best things on TV, even as it ages.
Archer is one of those shows that seems like the central joke, Archer being an asshole, would get old over time, but so far, that hasn’t happened yet. Archer isn’t just one of the best animated shows on TV right now, but it’s one of the best comedies in my estimation, and I don’t think it’s suffered a drop in quality, even after years on the air.
Louie is FX’s Emmy factory, as Louis CK has created a show so real and raw and tragic and funny, people can’t help but throw awards at it. Often, it’s not in the least bit “enjoyable,” but it can be powerful, occasionally hilarious and generally pretty sad as Louie fictionalizes his own life in a way that makes all of us feel his triumphs and his pain.
I may have lost track of the last few seasons of Justified, but I’ve heard the show is still just as good as ever, and it’s been a consistent staple on FX for years now. It’s got one of the best casts on TV, Timothy Olyphant is one of the best movie stars turned TV heroes out there. And that’s not even mentioning Boyd Crowder.
Again, not really my type of show, but The League has a wide range of devoted fans and is one of the networks better comedies. It split off onto “FXX,” which I don’t quite understand, but I’m still counting it as being on the normal channel.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Always Sunny joined The League on FXX, but it’s a far more storied comedy that feels like it’s simply never going to run out of ideas. Sure, it’s had its lulls from time to time, but overall, the quality has remained high, and the show has been hilarious through nine full seasons now.
And it’s not just long-running existing franchises that FX has going for it either. The Americans was one of the best new shows of last year. I’m not sure if it developed a big enough fanbase to truly be a phenomenon, but it’s a very well made show, and shows FX still has some tricks in its bag if its better offerings end up retiring.
American Horror Story
The quality may fluctuate, but at its best, American Horror Story is one of the most disturbing shows on TV, and the “miniseries” format it’s taken on allows it to constantly evolve into new and terrifying things while retaining most of the same cast. It’s one of the most intriguing formats for a TV show right now.
Obviously, if I had to compare FX to another channel in terms of a wide line-up of quality, it would be HBO with Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, The Newsroom, Girls, Veep and so on, but I’m not sure even they can match FX at present, who has proven they have a fantastic eye when it comes to cultivating and growing consistently great shows.