FX Network Is Taking Over and It's Going to Be Awesome
AMC, HBO and Showtime, turn around, please, and meet your competition; its name is FX and it's gunning to be the most talked about network on television. Very slowly over the past few years, the Fox spinoff network has turned from being a channel dedicated to reruns of Married...with Children and Ally McBeal into a bona fide destination for quality original scripted dramas and comedies. It's been airing one of the top-rated cable series, Sons of Anarchy, along with several other huge hits including Justified and Louie. And now FX plans on expanding itself into a whole 'nother channel.
There's a new sheriff in town named FX.
During the network upfronts last week (where the TV channels announce their intentions for the fall), FX announced it would be launching FXX, a new cable network dedicated to more comedic fare and geared toward a younger audience. The network will kick off in September and be anchored by FX's already established hits It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The League. So now FX is not only going to dominate the drama market, but it is also out to give Comedy Central a run for its money.
FX's history is weird, to say the least. A spin-off of the popular Fox Network (owned by News Corp), fX (as it was called then) started in 1994 and was like an all-live-all-the-time network featuring lots of re-runs interspersed with live talk shows with a bunch of "reporters" chatting each other up about whatever they felt like or so it seemed. It was like the CW's Newsfix but not as pointless.
This format didn't last too long because it's pretty expensive to try and produce a Wayne's World-type of show all day long. So they scrapped the idea and began airing lots and lots of re-runs. To some this may sound terrible but it was actually a pretty cool iteration of the network. FX was really into playing weekend-long marathons of its current shows. (I have about four VHS tapes, still, of random FX's Beverly Hills 90210 marathons that include Christmas episodes, summer fun episodes, back-stabbing episodes and pre-menopausal Andrea episodes.)
In addition to its syndicated shows, in this time period FX picked up NASCAR, which certainly helped the network; it became a combo of Buffy repeats and car racing. This lasted for quite a few years from the tail end of the '90s through early the 2000s.
Then some genius decided they should totally try and rip off HBO's The Wire and create some original programming and The Shield was born. FX began adding more and more scripted shows and it got some serious attention. All of a sudden TV critics were collectively saying, "FX? Really?" With shows like Rescue Me, Damages, Nip/Tuck, Louie and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the little network of re-runs all of a sudden was a contender and playing with the big boys like HBO and Showtime.
And then some genius at FX said, while we are at, let's air this show about gun-running, drug-dealing, motorcycle gangs and let's see if it becomes one of the top rated programs on cable. And they were dead on. Toss in the hit show Justified, the new Russian spy show The Americans and all of a sudden FX is looking like a network that is about to knock all others out of the park.
There's something different about FX that some of the other high-rated, scripted-type networks don't get - FX doesn't take itself all that seriously, yet the critics do. Justified is about a vigilante law man, Old West style, which is something of a played-out premise, but the show has garnered huge acclaim from fans and critics. It won a Peabody Award in 2010; who knew? All of FX's dramas are smartly written, character-driven shows but they lack pretension, and I think that's what makes them successful with everyday folks. Let's face it; Mad Men likes to pat its own high-falutin back quite a bit.