Fox made headlines, even when it didn’t always get ratings. Here’s a snapshot look back at the network that always dares to go too far.
LIGHTER SIDE OF 'WOMEN IN PRISON’
Evidence that Fox would try anything, Women in Prison, a 1987 sitcom, featured a framed yuppie housewife and a sultry English hooker. Theme song sampler: “While other girls make dates, you make license plates. You’re in JAIL!”
Get a Life, from 1990 to ’92, is a perfect example of a show no other network would put on. Chris Elliott, fresh from Late Night With David Letterman starred as a pathetic bike-riding 30-year-old paper boy. It was oddly—very oddly—idyllic. Yet viewers should have recognized the show’s title was probably also a suggestion.
WHEN DARNELL ATTACKS
Fox’s signature unscripted entry from reality guru Mike Darnell was When Animals Attack. He went on to Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire, Married by America and Temptation Island, to name just a few of the weirder ones. He didn’t get a chance to smash an unoccupied jet airliner into a desert. But he really wanted to.
FOX, THE STAR MAKER
In 1992, The Ben Stiller Show assembled an amazing ensemble that included Andy Dick, Janeane Garofalo, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross. Judd Apatow (Freaks and Geeks, 40 Year-Old Virgin) was executive producer. Stiller skewered pop culture—and Fox, for that matter, with skits like Cops set in Salem, Mass. In Living Color, from 1990 to ’94, gave a stage that launched a thousand Wayans brothers, as well as David Alan Grier, Rosie Perez, Jennifer Lopez, Jamie Foxx and some guy named Jim Carrey.
FOX’s 'BEVERLY HILLS’ DIET
Beverly Hills 90210 ran for over a decade starting in 1990 and launched the careers of Shannen Doherty, Jason Priestley, Luke Perry and Tori Spelling (whose dad Aaron was exec producer). It also spun viewers to Melrose Place and now The O.C.
CHAO’s NAKED MISTAKE
In 1992 at a company retreat where then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and his wife were Rupert Murdoch’s guests, Fox programming exec Stephen Chao arranged for a male stripper to perform (to prove a point about censorship). He was quickly fired.
'X-FILES’ TO '24’
Starting in 1993, Mulder, Scully, UFOs and aliens ruled. In 2001, not two months after 9/11, Fox debuted 24, which delved into terrorism and dirty bombs. And it had the best use of an on-screen clock since 60 Minutes.
WORLD’S BEST SUPER BOWL STUNT
In 1992, when CBS had the Super Bowl, Fox and Frito-Lay heavily promoted a counter-programmed special short edition of In Living Color that started at halftime, with a clock in the corner that would make sure viewers got back to CBS for the third quarter. Crazy, but 33% of the Super Bowl crowd switched channels.
How hot is it? Last May, 36 million viewers tuned in to watch Taylor Hicks become the latest American Idol. Last week, previous Idol Carrie Underwood was named female vocalist of the year at the Country Music Awards show.