KAI RYSSDAL: When you talk about network television — non-cable, that is — you’re talking about ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox. Back in the ’80s, there were only the Big 3. Fox didn’t get its start ’til October of 1986 — 25 years ago this weekend, as it happens.
And as Marketplace’s Adriene Hill reports, it’s been quite a quarter-century.
ADRIENE HILL: Fox’s first broadcast was a late-night talk show hosted by Joan Rivers. And from the start, the network wanted everyone to know it wasn’t going to play like the other guys.
JOAN RIVERS: You all know what a bleep is. This is the bleep button. We are going to be live. And that means, no bleeps.
Jonathan Taplin is a media professor at USC.
JONATHAN TAPLIN: They were trying to do something that was a little irreverent.
And Fox succeeded, with shows like “Married with Children.”
“MARRIED WITH CHILDREN” CLIP: Do you two have any kids? Two. Where are they? I don’t know.
“THE SIMPSONS” CLIP: Doh!
And “Cops,” one of the earliest reality shows.
HILL: Twenty-four seasons in, you’re not tired of the song yet?
JOHN LANGLEY: No, not at all, not at all.
John Langley created “Cops.”
LANGLEY: They were taking chances, they were taking risks, so they bought “Cops.”
Over the decades, he says, things have changed at Fox.
LANGLEY: I don’t think it’s the daring network it once was, but I think its made its mark on television.
Fox loosened TV up. Now it pulls in the most younger viewers. And it’s had huge hits, with shows like “American Idol” and “Glee.” But Langley isn’t optimistic about what comes next.
LANGLEY: I think in all honesty that network television is sort of like a dead man walking. It’s a corpse and doesn’t know it.
The future, he says, is smaller, specialized audiences — in other words, cable.
I’m Adriene Hill for Marketplace.
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