TV Made Fresh Daily: The Early Days of FX (or…fX)

Before it was a network that adopted the slogan/distinction of being “Fearless,” FX was a network that prided itself on being casual and “made fresh daily.” And if you were old enough to witness those days, they were truly special times.

Upon its launch on June 1, 1994, Fox sister network fX (styled as such) toted itself as a network that prided itself on a casual atmosphere, while firmly planting itself in its roots. The logo even symbolized this, with the lowercase “f” reflecting this casualness, and the “X” resembling the crossing spotlights of the 20th Century Fox logo.

Broadcasting live from an apartment in New York City’s Flatiron District, fX took on a different format, with hosts reading emails and doing live segments during commercials and between programs, original programming that was unlike anything else on television at the time, and a variety of syndicated reruns from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.

The apartment looked like a fun place to hang out and watch reruns of Family Affair, Batman ’66, The Green Hornet, and Mission: Impossible. Their “newsroom” was an office – an actual home office! The hosts actually cooked during their live segments in an amazing kitchen! It was home, if your home was a mid-1990s apartment in a bustling section of New York City. There were a rotating group of housemates/hosts covering the commercial breaks, it made stars of some of its personalities, and the programming had a nice mix of original and syndicated programming.

Yes, day and night.

I remember this being the first time I ever watched Family Affair as an eleven-year-old on summer vacation. It was where I watched reruns of In Living Color, loved listening to the letters read on Backchat, and once in a while, caught the first few minutes of Sound fX before I went to bed. I even witnessed my first “fountain fight” in a rerun of Dynasty.

And I remember Okavango, even though I never watched it, I used to think the name was interesting.

Even the network-created commercials and ident bumpers during those early days were fun!

Remember Fox in its earliest days? This is the 90s version of that!

During the first three years of fX’s life, programming began its day with Breakfast Time, which was hosted by Tom Bergeron and Laurie Hibberd, and a typical programming lineup would involve shows in syndication, headlines and emails read during commercial breaks, other original shows airing in some of the time slots on the weekends, and syndicated programming airing through the evening. Sound fX usually came on at 11 pm, and the syndicated programming would carry the network into the end of its broadcasting day.

And if you were able to stay up until 2 am during the summer (like I did!), you probably saw this happen…

The network even paid tribute to how networks signed off in the days before 24-hour programming! From the whistling to the title cards, all in thirty seconds, this was so much fun. I remember seeing it one night during the summer, and reminding myself to record it after an In Living Color rerun finished at 2 am. Weirdly enough, I had the foresight in 1996 to know this was something special. I regret the amount of videos I’ve gotten rid of without preserving/digitizing them first, but I’m so happy I still had this floating around.

Following this kitschy sign-off, paid programming would carry the network, as it did many other networks at the time, through the overnight hours, only to start all over again early in the morning!

The network, like networks were in the mid-1990s, began to grow and evolve. Eventually, that evolution had it shedding its “Fun Fox Network” image, and re-focusing its demographic to the 18-49 male crowd. And like that, all of the fun original programming ended (it had been gradually leaving the lineup during 1996), reading viewer emails during commercial breaks became a part of the network’s history, and the fun and kitschy syndicated reruns eventually left the schedule. New, male-targeted original programming found a new home on the network, and TV that was “made fresh daily” became “Fox Gone Cable.”

Even the super cool apartment was vacated, as the network’s live shows were eventually dropped throughout mid-1996. Until the network’s re-launch in mid-1997, fX relied on its classic television show lineup until then. The last original show, Personal fX, remained on the refocused network until May 1, 1998, the last of the first era of fX, but by then, the early years, all two-and-a-half years of them, ended the first era of fX.

Which became FX.

How standard and “against their mission” of them.

These days, FX is a basic cable channel that functions as an extension of Fox, and was a home for NASCAR and Major League Baseball, as well as edgier original programming, but there was a magical time when an amazing apartment became the home base for a network that worked hard to break the mold and be experimental. It wanted to be something the other networks were not. Was it like Fox in its early days? Yes it was! And was it amazing and memorable? Definitely!

Incredibly, the world of fX pre-1997 is well-preserved, if my little sign-off video is any indication. I found a video of the earliest bumpers and ephemera floating around YouTube – a whole hour of goodies! Best watched in small doses, but so much fun in content and character, you’ll be reminded all over again why this was such a fun network, and not one of the cookie cutter basic cable channels it would become.

FX’s relaunch logo in its original form isn’t even on YouTube, which says a whole lot about how exciting it was.

Do you have memories of the time a network tried to break the mold, and be “made fresh daily?” Did you ever submit a letter to Backchat, have your email read by a host during a commercial break, or visit the apartment? Or do you just wish you got to visit the apartment? I’d love to know your stories and memories of Fox’s great mid-1990s experiment!

I’ve been trying to adopt more of a less structured format for my blog, keeping Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday intact, while trying to have one (maybe two) larger articles per week. Like fX in the early days, I’m trying to battle off redundancy and have a little more fun. Hopefully it works, and this little trip down memory lane brought back some good memories for you.

Have a great day!

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