Why FX Is the Best Cable Network on TV

The Americans FX

About a month ago, I wrote a piece about why I believe The CW is the best broadcast network on television, and I stand by that claim, even more so since fully catching up with series like The 100, Jane the Virgin, and Reign. However, if The CW is the best that broadcast television has to offer, which network is the king of cable? While some would suggest HBO or even AMC, both struggle to match the success and quality of FX, which is truly the best cable network on TV, and there are many reasons why.

First, like The CW, FX’s lineup of shows over the past couple of years, when it comes to both drama and comedy, is unmatched. Despite HBO having two of what I consider to be the best series on television, Game of Thrones and The Leftovers, the network doesn’t have FX’s depth, a bevy of series which all populated countless critics’ Top 10 lists this past year. In fact, FX, thanks to The AmericansLouie, and, of course, Fargo, had more shows on “Best of 2014” lists than any other network, a pretty remarkable feat.

However, that just reaffirms the quality of the content that FX has continued to pump out over the years. Going back as far as Shawn Ryan’s The Shield (which I’m currently watching for the first time on DVD right now), FX has always been a network that has had an eye for impressive storytelling and filmmaking, and its current shows reflect that same mindset. In addition to the previously mentioned Louie, Fargo, and The Americans, FX also boasts Justified, which has gotten its sixth and final season off to a great start; Archer, which remains one of the best animated series on television;  and You’re the Worst, a comedy that took a few episodes to find its groove in its first season before becoming one of the best new shows of the year.

And it’s not just my word that supports the quality of FX’s series. Simply look at the amount of Emmys and Golden Globes that shows like Fargo, Louie, and even American Horror Story have received. While other standout series like The Americans and Justified have mostly been shutout from awards ceremonies (although Justified Season 2, easily the show’s best season, did receive multiple nominations and a win for Outstanding Supporting Actress for Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett), it’s clear that FX is on an upswing when it comes to the accolades it is receiving; it’s only getting more and more nominations, not less.

Justified FX

Furthermore, it’s not simply about awards for FX either. Again, like The CW, a huge part of the network’s success and popularity has been about carving out its own identity, and even though for a while, with shows like The Shield and Sons of Anarchy, FX could have been labeled the “network of antiheroes,” its brand is no longer as simple or generic as that. Instead, when you look at the series that populate FX, from its prestige dramas like Fargo and The Americans to its comedies like Louie and You’re the Worst, it becomes evident that what the network is all about is not antiheroes or villains but about diverse, complicated figures. If The CW, like I said in my article, is the network that bests represents the lives of young adults, than FX is the network that best showcases the struggles of adulthood; it digs deep and uncovers the morally gray, constantly complex situations that people face and challenges viewers to go through this journey alongside its shows’ characters. This sense of identity is what ensures that seires like Louie and Fargo and Justified are all able to air on the same network, because those similar ideas and themes run through all of them, connecting what initially appear to be very different shows and binding them together with recognizable face and brand.

And if the quality alone of FX’s content isn’t enough to make you a believer of my argument, then let’s turn to the more qualitative successes that the network has achieved. With American Horror Story: Freak Show and the now completed Sons of Anarchy, FX had two of most-watched series on cable this past year, ones that had some pretty incredible numbers (no, not Walking Dead numbers, but no shows pull those type of ratings aside from The Walking Dead and The Big Bang Theory). Both AHS and SOA had record-breaking season premieres in 2014, with AHS just beating out SOA in total viewers and demo viewers with 10 million and 6.54 million to Sons of Anarchy‘s 9.25 million and 6.1 million. Not to mention, American Horror Story had a large role to play in reviving the anthology series; without its success, two of 2014’s best shows, True Detective and Fargo, may have not gotten green-lit.

Also, thanks in large part to the “Every Simpsons Ever” marathon, FXX, the sister network of FX that launched in 2013, is now being watched by more and more people. While anchored by FX staples like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The League, FXX has even begun to produce its own original series, starting with this month’s premiere of the very entertaining Man Seeking Woman, starring Jay Baruchel. Additionally, shows that have already received critical acclaim, like You’re the Worst, which aired its first season on FX, will be joining the young network in 2015.

Man Seeking Woman FX

Really, the only concerns I have for FX at the moment are about the network’s future. While it certainly had a great year in 2014, two of its new dramas, Tyrant and The Strain, struggled to find both critical and commercial popularity. Both are returning in 2015, and it will interesting to see how, or if, they can bounce back from their less than stellar freshman runs in their second seasosn.  I’m also a little uncertain about the new series that FX plans to premiere this year, which include The Comedians, starring Billy Crystal and Josh Gad, and Denis Leary’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, but am optimistic that these shows are more likely to grow into themselves like You’re the Worst did, rather than fail to impress like Tyrant and The Strain.

No one can really predict what the rest of 2015 will have in store for any television network; all we can do is look at the present. And with that in mind, there’s no denying that, right now, FX is currently the best cable network on television, and if it continues to keep doing what it has been, it will remain the king of the cable landscape for years to come.

[Photos via FX]

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