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A Friend of the (American) Family - PAX TV

5th February, 2024

Oh god (literally), we’re not done with these American-themed television networks?!

Living in the United States is interesting, to say the least. While I definitely don’t belong here and go back out to England at every chance that I can get, I must say that some of the nationalistic tackiness is charming… in a way.

We’ve seen this tackiness with Channel America, albeit in name only. Then, we went to America One, which ramped it up a little. Yotoo America led us to something called GodTube, and then there was the American Independent Network, which wasn’t so “independent” after all. Surely, there couldn’t be any more ‘Murican television networks… right?

In a country full of crazy Christian networks that I keep stumbling upon? Come on, get real. This is America! We love our infomercials and we love our religion (but only the one, you know the one, the one with the crazy Texans who keep telling me to burn my Smurfs items). Why not combine those two values(?) into a television network for the whole family?

Enter Bud Paxson, co-founder of the Home Shopping Club (later Network). The history of HSN is actually pretty interesting, beginning right here in Florida. Paxson’s story is also pretty interesting. In 1966, he affiliated Jamestown, New York station WNYP with CTV (the Canadian broadcaster), which was a first for an American station. Ultimately, the station went dark. Tangent aside, Paxson knew what he was doing in the industry. He also became a born-again evangelical Christian shortly after the HSN founding, which is very important in this story.

Paxson was an early pioneer of the infomercial and set out to create a satellite-based network of stations airing nothing but infomercials. Originally called Infomall TV (inTV), a division of Paxson Communications, the all-infomercial station meandered around for a bit, lasting into the early 2000s in some markets.

Believe it or not, I'm actually a huge fan of infomercials. I'd watch inTV all day.

But Paxson had bigger ideas. Fed up with the “raunchy” nature of television in the nineties and wanting something aligned more to what he considered “family values”, his new network would restrict profanity, violence, and sexual content to have a family-focused attitude. The inTV stations received a preview of this new network in the summer of 1998, when PAX TV was officially ready to launch.

(Hear the extended PAX TV theme here. It’s strangely catchy. Thanks to SLN! Media Group on YouTube for putting this together!)

PAX came on the air on August 31, 1998 with an all-American brand identity and a focus on content for the whole family. Similar to The Family Channel (now, ironically, Freeform), PAX would air older series, children’s programming created by DiC (yes, that DiC), and more Christian programming, specifically time-sharing with The Worship Network in the overnight hours. And here I was thinking there couldn’t possibly be any more weird, small Christian television networks…

"Hey, Luigi! Get me off'a this station already!"

Unlike Channel America, PAX attempted to become the sixth major television network, now that The WB and UPN were firmly in fifth place, and had first-run content made for the network. Original series include The Reel to Reel Picture Show (a game show filmed at Universal Studios Florida), It’s a Miracle (focusing on people who’ve experienced “miracles” in their life), and various original talk and drama shows. PAX affiliated often had their own newscast branded for PAX, making it more of a complete station all around. So PAX actually had a shot amongst the smaller networks! Why don’t we hear about it today, then?

Surprisingly enough, we do!

PAX was on a bit of a decline in the early 2000s and ramped up the blocks of infomercials, leading it closer back to its origins as inTV. The steady decline meant that entertainment took a backseat to PAX's desperate attempt to maintain revenue. Something had to change. And change it did. On June 28, 2005, it was announced that PAX would be no more, rebranding itself into i: Independent Television. A confusing name in a world where independent stations were beginning to falter, but the rebrand got PAX away from the conservative, star-spangled, family-focused image it maintained since the beginning. Infomercials pushed out the remaining Christian programming as i aired up to eighteen hours of infomercials a day. With the rebrand, the former PAX network became an outlet almost entirely for reruns and infomercials, dropping the original programming that they were briefly known for.

Hey, ITV! Wait, no.

So why don’t we hear about i either? Aside from the name being nearly impossible to search up online. Simple. PaxNet, inTV, PAX, and i are all the ancestors of Ion Television.

You know, Ion? That one network that airs all those NCIS and Law & Order reruns? The supposed sixth or seventh network?

I guess no one talks about PAX after all.

One positive (no pun intended) of Ion is that it spawned the Qubo children’s network during the i era. Qubo is beloved by those who remember it and more infamous today for a fake closure video, which features the characters of the beloved children’s programming getting shot to Majora’s Mask music as the television screen begs you for money. How comforting. (Seriously, I don’t know how people believe this stuff.)

One PAX program that you can still watch today is the revival of Supermarket Sweep, which was revived by the network and aired from 1999 until the station’s rebranding in 2004. If you have a local Buzzr affiliate nearby, I recommend giving it a watch. It’s delightfully dated and a fun time all around!

Until then, keep looking up.

- Lcd101

Bonus: Here’s a commercial convincing advertisers to advertise on the squeaky-clean PAX! Written and produced by Jay Sandhouae. You can see how desperate PAX was at the time to not be in the red. I’d advise against calling that number.