As the network’s president, Peter Liguori had a vision for what FX could be beyond the disposable “Son of the Beach.” He didn’t believe that premium channels should be the only province of edgy dramas like “The Shield.”
“Our strategy was ‘Why should HBO and Showtime have a monopoly on premium, challenging content?'” Liguori said. “We wanted to come out of the gate with something that announced that FX was different.” In “The Shield,” Ligouri found a script where “every page was electric,” though it had been buried “in a stack of other spec scripts” and almost “never should have happened.”
Shawn Ryan, who penned the pilot, added, “We were having trouble getting people to consider us. There was a lot of skepticism about original programming on FX. There was a real belief that this is going to be some cheap cable thing. Frankly, I think a lot of it was driven by agents.”
Catherine Dent, who played patrol officer Danny Sofer, the future mother of Vic Mackey’s child, said, “My agents told me to turn it down. Nobody knew what FX was, the money was not great. But I’d been pounding the pavement for years and it was a big deal for me.”
“The Shield” immediately proved the skeptics wrong by earning the highest ratings for a scripted premiere in the history of basic cable. The Emmy win for Michael Chiklis was also a major get, but that was just the start. As A-listers like Glenn Close and Forest Whitaker joined the cast of “The Shield” in subsequent seasons, it paved the way for other network breakouts like “Sons of Anarchy” and “Justified,” helping transform the idea of cable prestige from a dicey prospect to the way of the future.