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January 9, 2013

FX president discusses the pile-on and popularity of violent TV shows

PASADENA, Calif. — The TV industry should study whether there's a link between on-screen violence and mass killings such as those last month at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School, FX President John Landgraf told TV critics Wednesday.

But, Landgraf said, the incidence of homicide by gun is 90 times higher in the U.S. than in the U.K., and "we consume the same media — same movies, same television shows, same video games."

"The major difference between England and the United States is access to, and availability of, guns," he said at Winter TV Press Tour 2013.

"I'm someone who believes very strongly in both the First Amendment and the Second Amendment, so I believe that we have the right to free speech in this country, and I believe that we have the right to have guns for protection," said Landgraf, who is much loved by TV critics because he is the only cable TV exec who consistently appears at the tour to take questions on the record.

"But last time I checked, I think a shotgun or a handgun that has a six-round clip are . . . perfectly adequate weapons for self-defense in the home. I think it was yesterday, it came out that the crazy man . . . who shot up the movie theater in Aurora got off — it was either 27 shots in 30 seconds or 30 shots in 27 seconds. . . . You simply can't create that kind of mayhem if you have to reload."

Asked about the pile-on of violent TV shows, Landgraf said: "We're animals — our greatest fear is death, and if you want to rivet people . . . you're going to tend to hover around questions of life and death, because that's the thing that rivets our attention."

He noted that the top-rated dramas/miniseries on basic cable among young viewers (who are coveted by advertisers) are: AMC's zombie drama "The Walking Dead," History's "Hatfields & McCoys," HBO's vampire drama "True Blood," Fox's biker-gang drama "Sons of Anarchy," FX's horror anthology "American Horror Story" and HBO's sex-and-swords drama "Game of Thrones."

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