Do You Remember When FX Was The World’s First “Living Television Network?”

On June 1, 1994, a new network made its way onto the scene. It was a Fox network, but it was Fox’s younger, hipper cousin. He was the original Nostalgia Guru, bringing reruns of popular television shows from the 1960s through the early 1990s. He lived in an apartment in New York City’s Flat Iron District, where all original programming and filler between shows was broadcast on a daily basis.

He also bragged about being the first “living television network,” and interaction was integral to the network’s early days – they wanted us to call, send a fax…and even email them!

(It’s ok if you didn’t have a fax machine or email access, you could still send mail. But they wanted us to interact with them on a level that most were not doing in 1994.)

His name was fX, and on June 1, 1994, he came to you live on basic cable!

And yes, he did spell his name with a lowercase “f.”

Living, Breathing Television

Why, of course!

fX’s launch in June 1994 was more than a network launch – it toted being the world’s first living network. Broadcast live from an apartment that looked mind-blowing to live in, hosts filtered through around the clock to read news, viewer mail, and broadcast live television.

Mixed in among this was reruns (they bragged about being the exclusive home for Mission: Impossible reruns) and original programming.

They even had an Antiques Roadshow-esque program, without the feel of PBS or the pressure of a pledge drive.

The network, more or less, stayed in this warm, fuzzy, fun-filled format for the first few years, until it went a more mainstreamed route.

In other words, it was Fox until they went mainstream.

Personal Nostalgia Time!

When I was eleven years old, fX joined our cable lineup in June 1994. We had recently (I believe in the last two years) gotten an expansion on our cable lineup that took our channels from stopping at Channel 55 (EWTN, or “The Sister Angelica Network”) to going up into the 70s (I think we had 75 channels by that point). fX joined our cable channel lineup on Channel 69.

I discovered it by accident one night when I was clicking through channels on my parents’ bedroom television. I don’t think I was looking for anything in particular to watch, just happened on this channel and saw The Fly Girls dancing. I knew this wasn’t Fox, but I also knew those weren’t the current Fly Girls, so…rerun?

The concept of reruns was interesting to me back then. I knew In Living Color was terrible and on the death knell by that point (it had actually already been cancelled), but the original run hadn’t cooled off yet enough to actually start showing it as a living, breathing, ratings-grabbing television show (in fact, Fox was showing the dreadful final season reruns in their normal time slot). So this made me very happy.

And so did the rest of the network – I discovered the 1960s “family is what you make it” sitcom cuteness of Family Affair, watched Sound fX and BackChat during the summer (and on weekends), and knew the Dynasty theme song. I loved the promos, idents, and that apartment!

fX was the first channel that made me take notice of behind-the-scenes work. Between shows, the news was delivered in a casual fashion, network hosts told us to “fax them” answers to trivia questions.

BackChat was always a blast to watch – the questions (to teenage me) were always legitimately good ones. The aim was to ask questions about any and all of the programming on the network, especially the reruns.

They also said “send us your artwork!”, our own questions, and such (sounds antiquated now, but in 1994, this seemed so cool), and encouraged our interactivity! It was this amazing network!

People always sent in drawings. My favorites were during the breaks on In Living Color. A kid – no lie – sent in a drawing of the Fly Girls, except it was done with Fashion Plates! And you know what…it was all kinds of 90s awesome!

And it was all in a time when this wasn’t the norm for television. It was cutting edge!

It was also the first time I noticed Tom Bergeron, Jeff Probst, and couldn’t pronounce Okavango. That very first summer (with a concept that continued, more or less, until 1997) were pretty magical and awesome for such a live-concept network. And you know what’s even cooler than talking about those memories? Watching them!

Promos, Idents, News, and Bumpers…Oh My!

Submitted for awesomeness by YouTube user Maljardin (who is clearly a great archivist), a full hour (plus one minute) of fX ephemera and promos exists, and it is – again – awesome! All of it is from 1994, and clearly from the first summer of fX.

Promos for Batman, Green Hornet, Mission: Impossible, Dynasty, In Living Color, an adventure block on the weekends, Far and Away, as well as commercials explaining what fX is all about, as well as oh so many idents and news clips. It is enough to be mind blown!

Think you can handle all of this?I f you can, click play!

Upload via maljardin

That Magical First Year

…until we’re not.

This early format of fX stayed in place through the mid-1997, but the live shows and original programming began to fade off throughout 1996. Personal fX was the last original program from those early years to stay with the network. The classic programming remained intact until the network’s re-launch. And when that happened, it quickly became what Fox had started becoming…mainstreamed.

By 1997, fX became “FX,” and it had “gone cable.” The apartment format was dropped by 1998 (when it was vacated), new and original shows that didn’t follow the original format were part of the new programming, and they even did away with that cool, kitschy network signoff they did every night. They started off with a network “of the future” feel, by allowing us into the apartment and interact with them, and eventually became just another face in the basic cable crowd.

I really miss the fresh, fun, relaxed concept. It was super nice while it lasted!

…until that doesn’t work for the mainstream masses who hate this type of stuff.
Allison L. Venezio
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Allison L. Venezio

Secretary/Blogger-Writer at Allison's Written Words and Retroist
Allison is a Secretary by day, a writer/blogger by night (and during lunch breaks and in the mornings before work), a nostalgia geek (and a geek in general), worshipper of Thor (and Chris Hemsworth), and honorary Avenger (she has a pin, so it is official).She collects Itty Bittys and Funko Pops, loves anything that takes her back to childhood, and has confessed her love for Kenny Loggins.Oh, and she listens to Chicago...alot.If any of this piques your interest, she'd love for you to visit her personal blog, Allison's Written Words, where she talks about alot of the same stuff she talks about here, and more!

She can be found at allisonveneziowrites.com.You can follow her blog on Facebook (facebook.com/allisonswrittenwords) and on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.
Allison L. Venezio
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