News Column

New channel FXX launches with 'Sunny' forecast

September 3, 2013


LOS ANGELES _ Executives behind the new FXX cable channel are doing what they can to make sure this week's launch will be "Sunny."

The latest addition to cable is an extension of the FX channel and will feature original programming, off-network reruns and movies. It also will be the new home of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," a comedy series that's been airing on FX since 2005.

"Sunny" moves to FXX on Wednesday.

"As far as FXX is concerned, 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' and 'The League' are both currently turning out some of the best episodes in their history and will anchor the new network," says John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks and FX Productions, of the move.

"Sunny," a series about four people who own a bar in the city of brotherly love, has built an audience on FX through it irreverent humor and complete disregard for political correctness. Landgraf is banking on those viewers migrating to the new cable channel.

"There's no doubt that launching a channel in this environment is a big challenge. We'll have our moments of both success and failure," Landgraf says. "However, unlike 20 years ago when FX had what was at that time the biggest launch in basic cable history, which was 18 million homes in a 90 million home universe, FXX will enjoy one of the largest launches ever with 72 million homes in a 100 million home universe."

Programming on FXX won't be too different than what has been airing on FX, except that the move of "Sunny" does reflect how the FXX overall lineup will be aimed at a younger audience.

Landgraf's faith in "Sunny" to be the bedrock for the new channel is a huge change from when the comedy launched on FX. The series was a maverick in the TV world from the way the creators shot the pilot for only $200 and then filled the show with a cast _ other than Danny DeVito _ who were TV unknowns.

There was no pressure on "Sunny" because if it failed, it didn't have far to fall. Now there are a lot more expectations.

The "Sunny" gang isn't feeling any pressure because they believe the series hasn't gotten stale, despite this being the ninth season. Part of that comes from the number of episodes made each year. The average number of episodes in a season for a network comedy is 21. "Sunny" has averaged 10 a year.

Series creator Rob McElhenney says that small annual order has allowed "us to stay fresh and to continue to evolve."

None of the "Sunny" cast members are worried that the move off FX will result in a loss of viewers. They believe that in this world of TiVo, On Demand and other alternative ways of watching programs, viewers are less likely to go looking for a specific channel than they are to seek out a favorite show.

"You'll go to a website, or you'll just punch it into your television, and up it comes. So I think things have changed a lot for us, and we've really benefitted from a savvy younger audience who knew how to find the show. So I think our hope is that, in that way, they'll find us, whether we're on FXX or anything," says Charlie Day, who plays Charlie.

DeVito remembers a time when TV watchers were limited to viewing a show when it originally aired. He believes that when ABC began bouncing his series "Taxi" around the dial, viewers couldn't find the show and that resulted in a cancelation after five year.

Whether "Sunny" is on FX or FXX, the way the show is put together won't change. It will still be a comedy where no topic is off limits.

"Somehow we've managed to create a world in which I feel like our characters can get into a lot of different scrapes that a lot of other shows maybe can't do. I don't know why, but somehow we've managed to create a world where we can kind of go anywhere, and we can get into a lot of situations that are beyond the scope of a lot of other shows," Glenn Howerton, who plays Dennis, says.

Other original programming moving from FX to FXX includes "Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell" and "Legit."



10 p.m. EDT Wednesday



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