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The show focused on Rollie Tyler (Cameron Daddo), a special effects technician living in New York City with his assistant Angie (Christina Cox). Tyler assists a NYPD detective named Leo McCarthy (Kevin Dobson) in capturing dangerous criminals. Tyler would often have to use his knowledge of special effects to outwit his enemies and stop them. Later episodes also introduced the "Chameleon", a dangerous criminal who had the same ability to create special effects like Tyler, and used his skills to create chaos in the New York area.
F/X was filmed in and around the Toronto, Ontario area in Canada, where many landmarks could be glimpsed during the series. The show also featured a wide variety of guest stars (including Maria Conchita Alonso, John Spencer, Michael Ironside and others). The show was a mix of Mission Impossible and MacGyver.
This TV show contains examples of:
- Anyone Can Die / Death by Cameo: Leo McCarthy, who dies seconds after he's glimpsed working as an undercover operative at a drug deal at the beginning of the second season premiere. A major part of the second season is the investigation following his death.
- Automated Automobiles: An automated car that can arrest criminals...is a remote-controlled prop used in a Show Within a Show.
- Bad Bad Acting: Carrie-Anne Moss hams up her performances as amateur actor Lucille.
- Bare Your Midriff: Angie's general outfit is a cropped shirt that nicely shows off her toned abs. A first-season episode also has a moment where Lucille's shirt is ripped off (when she's kidnapped by gangsters who realize she's wearing a wire), and she is tied to a chair in that position for half of the episode.
- Bombproof Appliance: A bomb is found in a fridge, and the team uses a cannon prop to direct the oncoming blast away from them.
- California Doubling: The show is filmed in Toronto, but is ostensibly set in New York. Each episode ends with a camera shot of a two-story advertisement for Phantom of the Opera, which was playing (and still is) in New York.
- Chekhov's Gun: Any special effect introduced in the opening scene will be used later by Tyler against dangerous criminals.
- The Con: The team's bread and butter. Generally, they con criminals into revealing their plans or locations, if not tricking the criminals to drop the hostages or come out of hiding and run straight into the hands of the police.
- Conspiracy Theories: A government coverup of alien landings are the basis of a first-season episode, where a conspiracy theorist turns up dead after filming what he believes to be a cover-up of a secret government facility. It turns out to be a secret base, but the glowing shapes and the footage of the burnt airman is due to a radiation accident.
- Continuity Nod: Leo is mentioned in two casual conversations by Rollie many episodes after he died.
- Counterfeit Cash: What the criminals use in episode 12 of season 1.
- Darker and Edgier: The second season did this - first by replacing the quaint first-season opening sequence with credits filled with darker colours and flames, then by killing one main character and almost offing another, and finally ending with a main character's rape at the hands of the series' longest running villain.
- Diplomatic Impunity: Used in episode 14 of the first season. The son of a diplomat runs over a police officer during a drug bust and claims immunity.
- Enhance Button: Used very frequently. Partially justified, because the film being analyzed is generally from movie shoots, so it's very high quality film and cameras.
- Expy: Johnny Chu is essentially Jackie Chan with more of a gangsta influence, right down to being well known for doing all of his own stunts. Similarly, Jurgen is essentially Arnold Schwarzenegger complete with oversized muscles and overdone Austrian accent.
- External Combustion: Used at least once in the series to eliminate an inconvenient witness. Or, rather, to eliminate the stand-in so that the witness can get off scot-free. It first sets the car on fire, killing the driver, then blows up in a huge explosion several seconds later.
- In another episode, a main character is saved from this by her habit of remote-starting the car with one of Rollie's gadgets: The car explodes in front of her and she's hospitalized.
- Fake Action Prologue: Just like the films, several episodes open with an extended sequence from one of Rollie's projects, with the effects team coming in at the end to fix a prop, advise an actor or reset the scene.
- Faked Rip Van Winkle: Used on a member of a terrorist squad to convince him that a planted bomb had already gone off, so that he would reveal its location.
- Faking the Dead: Another frequent use of the special effects department. Justified, given that was the basis of the first movie.
- Fauxtastic Voyage: Used frequently by the team.
- The Foreign Subtitle: For the French DVD release, a subtitle was added to the title to spell out what "FX" stood for.
- Kansas City Shuffle: A frequent part of the team's schemes. Just when it looks like their plan's been revealed, the revelation turns out to be yet another part of the con.
- Latex Perfection: A frequent part of the team's plans. Done a bit more realistically in that the masks are applied in pieces (albeit originally cast in one piece so the viewer can see the entire face), are applied with glue, and have supplemental makeup to make them look more effective. Also, we see scenes of the target practicing the voice and mannerisms of the target.
- Left Hanging: The show ends without resolving major plot threads like Angie's rape and the Chameleon's whereabouts in the final episode.
- Magical Database: Rollie's computers are pretty close to magical in terms of the data they can access when needed.
- Magician Detective
- Make Me Wanna Shout: In episode 12, a high frequency noise is used that shatters glasses and causes people hearing it to collapse in pain.
- Pinocchio Nose: Used literally to humorous effect in the opening movie scene of episode 7 of season 1.
- Proscenium Reveal: This happens Once an Episode.
- Robot Buddy: "Blue" is a mobile multi-legged robot that prowls around in Rollie's studio. It sports a wi-fi antenna tail, visual sensors, and the sound files of a dog. He's mainly used as a fancy remote control and conversation piece, but he's been shown to have about the intelligence level of a common dog, up to the point of being able to follow voice commands and operate autonomously, making observations while Rollie is out.
- Serial Escalation: Want to stop an illegal car ring? Set up your own fake car ring in an arena and push them out of business! Want to make a criminal believe his building robbery has gone south? Pretend to have a plane crash into your building, then trick him into thinking the whole place is on fire! Want to take down an elite criminal who gambles on a casino airliner? Go undercover as a fellow high-roller, commit legal acts of thievery and bankrupt the casino!
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Detective Mira Rodriguez (Jacqueline Torres), who joins the team after Leo is killed at the beginning of the second season.
- The Triads and the Tongs: Used sparsely given that the show is set right near Chinatown, but they appear as antagonists in episode 11 of the first season.