America's Got Cable: A&E vs. FX
Welcome to another skull-stealing week of America's Got Cable: The Search for the Nation's Finest Basic Cable Channel!
OLD BUSINESS: Looks like we've discovered a second, more brutal meaning of the term HGTV'd! Congratulations goes to...
It was unanimous. Oh well, HSN will just have to console itself with BILLIONS of dollars. These comments were priceless, though:
CrimeDramaBee: "HGTV because one time I watched it and I learned how to fix something. I don't remember what it was that needed fixing, or if it really did need fixing in the first place. Nor did I care."
KevinG87: "I don't watch HGTV, but seriously, putting HSN against ANYTHING is beyond insane. It wastes space." [Ed. note: Good to know!]
NEW BUSINESS: Okay, no more joking—THIS is a matchup.
Background: For better or worse, A&E;'s come a long way from its humble beginnings as an arts channel that aired for two hours a night on Nickelodeon. It first launched in 1984 as the Arts and Entertainment Channel and was intended to be a commercial-supported competitor to PBS. In 1985 it spun off from Nickelodeon into its own channel, and up until 2002 aired mostly high-brow programming that was heavily stacked with BBC productions, Biography series, miniseries adaptations of classic literature, and such. Then in 2002 it got a low-culture makeover when it summarily canceled many of its stodgier shows and unveiled a reality TV-heavy slate that included things like Dog the Bounty Hunter, Criss Angel MindFreak and Gene Simmons Family Jewels. Recently A&E; has begun to get back into scripted series with things like Breakout Kings and The Glades.
Original Programming: In addition to the above, A&E; is also the home of Storage Wars, Billy the Exterminator, Beyond Scared Straight, The First 48, Steven Seagal: Lawman, and most significantly the addiction shows Intervention, Heavy, and Hoarders.
Reruns: A&E; has been home to various crime procedurals since before its reality TV makeover—particularly Law & Order. These days it's more likely to air reruns of Criminal Minds, CSI: Miami, and especially The Sopranos.
Why It's The Best: For a schedule filled to the brim with guilty pleasures, I admit that it all somehow seems more palatable when stamped with the A&E; logo.
Why It's The Worst: You know there's a problem when the USA Network has classier programming than you do.
Background: FX has one of the weirdest beginnings of any corporate-owned network. Back in 1994, it began broadcasting from a single apartment in New York as basically a cable-access-style network full of live programming and internet-fueled viewer feedback (think G4 meets Reality Bites). Much of the broadcast day was full of in-house talk shows hosted by people like Jeff Probst, Orlando Jones, or Phil Keoghan, and the rest of the schedule consisted of reruns of Fox shows. When that format didn't work out, the channel was relaunched with more of a Spike-like dude feel, and the channel secured broadcast rights to NASCAR and tons of MLB coverage. But FX truly began to come into its own around 2002, when it debuted The Shield and later Nip/Tuck, making it the go-to cable network for edgy, high-quality scripted programming.
Original Programming: In addition to stalwarts It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Rescue Me, FX's newer hits include animated comedy Archer, live-action comedies Louie, Wilfred, and The League—plus huge hits Justified and Sons of Anarchy. And the upcoming Ryan Murphy series American Horror Story (hi, Connie Britton!) looks pretty great too.
Reruns: Too bad FX's reruns aren't nearly so hot... unless you like That '70s Show (which also airs on every other channel) or you already crave the Charlie Sheen days of Two and a Half Men. For folks with slightly better taste, you're also bound to catch reruns of '90s semi-classics The Practice or Spin City (hi, Connie Britton!).
Why It's the Best: For a network that could have gone the crass-and-inessential Spike route, it's amazing that FX now rivals HBO in quality entertainment.
Why It's the Worst:: FX can sometimes get a little cancel-happy on shows that probably don't deserve it (RIP Terriers and Lights Out).
Official TV.com Verdict: You're doing it wrong, A&E.; Hooray for FX!
But now it's your turn! COMMENT BELOW and tell us your verdict: A&E; or FX? And make your case! What do you love or hate about each channel?
Click below to see the full tournament bracket:
Want to catch up on past battles? Head over to the America's Got Cable archives.
Follow TV.com writer Price Peterson on Twitter: @pricepeterson
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