Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media — comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Contact John at

Happy 29th Birthday To The Fox Network!


On this day 29 years ago, the long-awaited “fourth network” began competing with the three-decades TV monopoly of ABC, CBS and NBC.

Fox Broadcasting launched  “The Late Show” hosted by comic Joan Rivers on Oct. 9, 1986.

Prime-time programming would not begin until the following April with a Sunday night lineup featuring “Married… with Children,” “The Tracey Ullman Show,” “21 Jump Street,” “Duet” and “Mr. President.”

I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize the significance when WXIX-TV program director Patrice Mohn told me in summer of 1986 that Channel 19 had picked up Rivers’ show for fall.

Mohn then explained that by adding “The Late Show,” Cincinnati’s independent Channel 19 would become a charter member of the new Fox network. And in the early years, WXIX-TV delivered some of the best ratings for Fox shows.

But it wasn’t easy for Fox to build its Empire.

TV executives like NBC Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff dismissed Fox as the “coat-hanger network” because many viewers needed an antenna on their portable TVs to get the network on UHF stations (channels 14 and up).

Rivers was gone in eight months, replaced by Arsenio Hall, Ross Shafer and the quickly scuttled “Wilton North Report.”

In the early years, Fox gave us forgettable shows called “Women in Prison,” "Werewolf" and “The Adventures of Beans Baxter” before “The Simpsons” was spun off “Tracey Ullman” for the first big Fox hit in 1990.

For every success, Fox had plenty of misses. Viewers fondly remember “21 Jump Street,” “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” “Roc,” “In Living Color,” “Party of Five,” “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Melrose Place,” “That ’70s Show,” “Dark Angel,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Arrested Development,” “Ally McBeal,” and “Family Guy.”

They tend to forget “Joe Millionaire,” “Temptation Island,” “Top of the Heap,” “Babes,” “Herman’s Head,” “The Pauley Shore Show,” “My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss,” “Trading Spouses,” the funeral home sitcom “Good Grief” and Cris Collinsworth hosting “Guinness World Records: Primetime.”

When the late-night “Chevy Chase Show” bombed in five weeks in 1993, Fox quit the late-night time slot. But a year later, Fox grew up quickly and proved to be a major player in 1994 by acquiring rights to Sunday NFL games, the groundwork for its respected Fox Sports division.

Sometimes it was a bumpy ride to get to Gotham. But it can’t be denied that Fox has created some American Idols over 29 years. Congratulations Fox! Happy Birthday!

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.