Excerpt from the archives: the Fox network debuted 35 years ago


Media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Broadcasting Co. made its television debut 35 years ago today. On April 5, 1987, the new television network aired two comedies, “Married with Children” followed by “The Tracey Ullman Show” on XETV, Channel 6 in San Diego. Union TV writer Robert P. Laurence called both shows “fresh, sharp and witty”.

From the San Diego Union, Sunday, April 5, 1987:

Fox launches a new concept on television: the funny comedy

By Robert P. Laurence, TV Writer

As long as you’re forming a whole new television network and challenging the commercial power of ABC, NBC and CBS and repeating your first two prime time programs three times in one evening, why play it safe when it is it about choosing your shows?

After all, if you want people to watch your programs over everything else, make them different from everyone else.

That seems to be the way Fox Broadcasting Co. thinks. Whether or not you like “Married…With Children” and “The Tracey Ullman Show,” you won’t find them to be like everything else on TV. Both will air on Sunday evening on XETV, Channel 6, beginning with “Married” at 7 p.m. and “Ullman” at 7:30 p.m. Then each will be repeated two more times until 10 p.m.

The idea is to give viewers a chance to sample the shows without forcing them to give up their usual network favorites.

Fox calls the unique plan to introduce its Sunday night lineup a “rollout.” The schedule calls for “21 Jump Street” to debut next Sunday, April 12, and “Duet” on April 19; all four programs will assume their regular time slots on April 26.

Having seen a tape of “Tracey Ullman”, I think I’ll stick with it. I’m not entirely sure about “Married…with kids”, but it has some real possibilities too.

Both are fresh, sharp and witty. Ullman’s show, in particular, is wickedly funny, somewhere between “Benny Hill” and “Saturday Night Live,” with the bite of “Monty Python” and “Fawlty Towers,” but utterly original. It’s daring, a little steamy, very refreshing.

Ullman is a brash and irreverent English comedian and actress, a veteran of London theater productions and two BBC comedy series. American audiences have seen her on David Letterman’s “Tonight” and “Late Night” and in the movies “Plenty” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” As a singer, she had four Top 10 singles on the UK charts.

With this show, she has first-class help. Executive producer is James L. Brooks, one of the creative geniuses of the MTM empire, whose credits include “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, “Room 222”, “Rhoda”, “Taxi” and “Lou Grant” . Her co-star is Julie Kavner, known to viewers as “Rhoda’s sister,” and a star of Woody Allen’s new movie, “Radio Days.”

Even the format of “The Tracey Ullman Show” is a television departure. Each show will feature one or two long sketches, with Ullman playing different characters, as well as comedy and musical snippets. Ullman, by the way, has an impeccable American accent.

In her first show, you might not recognize the vivacious young Ullman inside the grumpy, lonely figure visiting a plastic surgeon. You won’t hear a Brit in her impeccable American accent, either. For the first time in her life, she tells the doctor, she has a boyfriend. He’s a prisoner, a correspondent she’s never met. But she wants to look good for him, and she wants a new face and a new figure. The doctor is sympathetic, in a way: “It’s been statistically proven that beautiful people do much better in this world than ugg-ohs.”

“You’re not so handsome, and you seem to be fine,” the lady said.

“It’s different for a man.”

Then, alone in her apartment, delighted with her new prospects, she sings “I Feel Pretty”, perhaps the funniest and most debauched “I Feel Pretty” ever broadcast on television, much closer to burlesque than to “West Side Story”.

It’s a long sketch, funny and original, which cheerfully attacks doctors, images of men and women in society, prisons, etc. Another skit, which may be included in a later show, is even tougher, confusing yuppie parents who only spend a few minutes a day with their children, but insist that it really is “quality time.” “.

It’s the funniest TV comedy, a comedy with meaning and impact, a brilliant and welcome addition to the TV schedule.

“Married…With Children” presents a look at suburban life that’s closer to “The Bickersons” than “Ozzie and Harriet.” And it certainly offers a quick antidote to the syrupy sentimentality that has recently taken over “The Cosby Show.”

It’s “The Honeymooners” with an 80s twist, a sardonic look at a couple who love each other – except when they don’t. They have a few teenage kids, but the kids don’t seem to affect the parents’ relationship, despite the show’s title. In the opener, at least, their presence is negligible. No, Al and Peggy Bundy worked out their own dynamic, without the help of the little ones.

“Is this your cactus? Al asks, holding the potted succulent that just pierced his hand. “Any particular reason you put it where the alarm clock was?”

But don’t worry, he told the woman. “I stopped the bleeding with your panties.”

When asked what he can do to make her life easier, Peggy’s response is quick: “You could shave your back.

Ed O’Neill and Katey Sagal, two talented comic actors, play Al and Peggy, a couple from Chicago. Al is a shoe salesman. Peggy is lying on the couch, eating chocolates, smoking a cigarette, watching TV.

He wants to go to a Bulls game. She wants to invite the new neighbors. “Who the hell would want to come here?” Al said.

The neighbors are newlyweds, still on their honeymoon. But before the evening is over, the bride will learn that serving her husband a miserable instant coffee will encourage him to take him out to dinner, and the groom will learn that it’s his divine right as a man to watch sports at home. television.

And the Bundys, having brought some of their own acidic realism to their neighbors’ wedding, will look to each other with a glint of romance in their eyes.

If the rest of Fox’s programming lives up to the standards set by its first two entries, the television industry has just become more competitive, and the winners of the contest will be viewers.

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