In Praise of the Fox Movie Channel

Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 27 2009 12:10 PM

In Praise of the Fox Movie Channel

I’m one of those arrière-garde types who still occasionally flips channels on cable instead of streaming videos on Hulu or YouTube. And being a film-lover, I flip to the Turner Classic Movies channel first. TCM is greater than a cinephile’s wildest dreams. Classics, obscurities, silent films, retrospectives—TCM is like a 24-hour repertory cinema, film school, and archive all under the same unlikely shingle. The awful truth, though, is that I love the idea of TCM more than I love to watch it. Several Thanksgivings ago, TCM devoted an entire day of programming to Andy Hardy films—the white-bread movies that made boy next door Mickey Rooney a top box-office draw during the ’30s and ’40s. I get off on completism as much as the next guy, but an entire day? Ten minutes of Andy Hardy is more than enough. Trust me. So where do I turn? To the obscure heights of Channel 257 on Brooklyn’s Time Warner Cable, where the Fox Movie Channel humbly waits.

If TCM is like a gleaming, impeccably restored movie house, then FMC is a scattershot, haphazardly outfitted video store in a strip mall. The overriding vision of FMC is something like: "Well, we’ve got a lot of time to fill ..." Programming with Fox’s vast back catalog at its disposal, the channel empties the library in gonzo spurts. Bonnie and Clyde goes toe-to-toe with Harvey Keitel and Raquel Welch in Mother, Jugs & Speed ; a Martin Ritt curiosity from 1974 ( Conrack ) leads into Matthew Broderick’s chimp-sympathy weepie, Project X ; John Wayne westerns are followed by Hot Shots! Part Deux . Yes, these are actual examples. If you don’t believe me, tune in Wednesday, when FMC will show three rarely screened, vintage ’60s comedies in the daytime, capped by Weekend at Bernie’s during prime time.

In a too-manicured, micro-managed advertising-dominated television landscape, such slipshod programming is positively thrilling. FMC may be the anti-TCM, but it’s also anti anything else on basic cable. It doesn’t show what my demographic, or any demographic, expects. It just sets up shop and lets you wander around inside. There’s no real design or quality control. The word "classic" isn’t invoked in the channel’s name or mission. Fox is just movies, all day long, commercial- and pretension-free.




Eric Hynes is a New York-based journalist and film critic.


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge


The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Iran and the U.S. Are Allies Against ISIS but Aren’t Ready to Admit It Yet

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 4:08 PM More Than Scottish Pride Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 5:07 PM One Comedy Group Has the Perfect Idea for Ken Burns’ Next Project
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.
Frame Game
Sept. 15 2014 5:13 PMHard KnocksI was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PMGiving Up on GoodellHow the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 5:37 PMA Stupid Man for Our Stupid TimesWhat Stephen Colbert is to dumb, infuriating politicians, PFTCommenter is to the dumb, infuriating NFL.