For years it was just the big three: CBS, NBC, and ABC. Dumont was a fledgling 4th during the early years of television, but collapsed in the 1950s. Then on April 5, 1987 the Fox Network launched into prime-time and stuck.
FOX had trickled into the airwaves six months earlier with only 95 stations, striving to project a distinctive, younger image than the established broadcast networks. FOX’s first offering on October 9, 1986 was in late night: The Late Show starring Joan Rivers. Rivers had been the permanent guest host for NBC’s Tonight Show with Johnny Carson since 1983 and burned some bridges when she moved to FOX:
When FOX lept into prime-time in April of 1987, it did so with only one day of programming – Sunday. The first shows included four comedies: Married … With Children, The Tracey Ullman Show, Mr. President, and Duet; and one drama, 21 Jump Street.
From The Tracey Ullman Show soon came The Simpsons, not only the longest-running American sitcom in television history, but also the longest-running prime-time, scripted series. Executive Producer James L. Brooks on the birth of The Simpsons:
Co-creator Stephen J. Cannell on the genesis of 21 Jump Street:
FOX soon succeeded in their goal to be the “young” network, with several other hits coming down the pipeline: Arsenio Hall got his own talk show later in 1987, and FOX scored a huge hit in 1990 with the teen drama Beverly Hills 90210 from super-producer Aaron Spelling:
Tonight FOX takes a look back at some of its hits, beginning with a re-airing of the pilot of Married … with Children at 7pm, followed by an encore of the 500th episode of The Simpsons. Then Fox celebrates its 25 years on air with stars that made the network famous, including: a reunion with the cast of That 70’s Show; Keenan Ivory Wayans, Marlon Wayans and Shawn Wayans of In Living Color; Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Seacrest and Steven Tyler from American Idol; Kiefer Sutherland from 24 and Touch; Seth MacFarlane from Family Guy, The Cleveland Show and American Dad; Christina Applegate, David Faustino, Ed O’Neill and Katey Sagal from Married…With Children; Calista Flockhart from Ally McBeal; Gabrielle Carteris, Shannen Doherty, Jason Priestley and Ian Ziering from Beverly Hills, 90210; Patrick Warburton from The Tick, and Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny and creator Chris Carter from The X-Files.
Happy anniversary, FOX!