CHARLOTE, May 21, 2012 – Every afternoon Fox News’ The Five allows television viewers to eavesdrop on America’s sidewalk café.
Across the country and throughout the world, similar scenes play out among friends who get together daily in their favorite gathering places to discuss and debate the news of the day from politics to religion to the latest ice cream flavor and anything else in between.
Unlike The McLaughlin Group or CNN’s once popular, and now defunct, Crossfire, which mistakenly determined that good television consists of constantly interrupting or out-yelling colleagues with opposing views, The Five is made up of five personalities who criticize, argue and dispute each other’s opinions with obvious respect and genuine friendship regardless of their various points of view.
The program was conceived as a last minute temporary replacement by the chairman of FOX News, Roger Ailes, to replace controversial Glenn Beck. Ailes roughly patterned his idea after ABC’s morning talk show The View which features four mostly liberal, mostly angry females discussing women’s issues with virtually no credentials for their opinions except for Barbara Walters.
The Five, on the other hand, features personalities who bring varied backgrounds to the table with a strong complement of insights which, in many respects, offer an “insider’s” view to topics of the day. The genius of the concept, whether by design or by accident, is that viewers can relate to a group of professional broadcasters as “real people” and not just talking head robots.
Regulars who tune in to the program begin to learn tidbits about each individual from sidebar comments and sarcasm offered by the five friends sitting around the circular table. Before long a sense of comfort sets in for the audience as they begin to feel that they too are participants in the group and would be readily accepted by any one of the panel members if they met them on the street.
The format consists of six segments with each member of the panel acting as host for one of the first five sections. Segment six serves as a light hearted kicker where the participants present a personal item of interest that may or may not be newsworthy. Frequently Greg Gutfeld uses his time to place a personal ban on buzzwords or phrases that drive him crazy through overuse.
Gutfeld provides most of the comic relief for the program and softens developing controversies that could let the discussion get out of control and into uncomfortable territory. Gutfeld is a comedian who hosts Red Eye, FOX’s late-night talk show when he isn’t writing monologues that usually lead in to his portion of The Five.
Former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, Dana Perino, makes solid contributions from her keen understanding of West Wing strategies and maneuvering. Perino’s huge following on Twitter combined with Gutfeld’s often unrelenting badgering have taught viewers that she is vertically challenged at 5’2”, an avid dog lover, a homespun philosopher and extremely adept at comprehending presidential politics.
In his youth, Eric Bolling was a professional baseball player who became an oil trader before turning financial analyst on the FOX Business Network. The panel often defers to Bolling’s knowledge of the oil industry when energy issues arise. As acknowledgement of Bolling’s negotiation skills, his contract allows him to appear without wearing a tie, and much to the chagrin of colleague Bob Beckel, his common sense views are well-reasoned and introspective.
Beckel, a former football player, is the token liberal of the group. He is a recovering alcoholic and cocaine user and readily admits the battles of his youth on the program. Though normally blustery and, sometimes, profane, the fast-talking 1984 Walter Mondale campaign manager can be difficult to understand because he speaks like he has a mouth full of marbles. Beckel also possesses a softer side which frequently surfaces during the program. His behind-the-scenes generosity has been mentioned more than once, and though he is the resident curmudgeon, it is obvious that he respects each of his associates and vice versa.
Most of the time, Andrea Tantaros and Kimberly Guilfoyle share the fifth position in the line-up, though occasionally one of them may fill in for another panel member. Guilfoyle brings the legal perspective to the group having obtained a law degree at the University of San Francisco after graduating magna cum laude from the University of California, Davis. As a single mother, she offers additional insights on women’s issues. Her heritage is both Puerto Rican and Irish, and she is usually seen dancing in her chair to the bumper music that plays going in and out of commercial breaks.
Perhaps the most pragmatic personality on The Five is Andrea Tantaros who has already had a lifetime of experience despite only being in her 30s. The daughter of Greek immigrants, Tantaros is multi-lingual, has lived in France and writes a column for The New York Daily News. She has worked extensively on Capitol Hill including several political campaigns. Andrea’s calm, yet reasoned personality mixed with a quick tongue and biting sense of humor, make her a powerful presence on the panel.
The Five will celebrate its first anniversary in July of 2012. Though it began with unspectacular ratings, the combination of personalities that bring their unique backgrounds and varied perspectives is addictive viewing. Through the on-air banter and social media, audience members have become part of the family, and the panelists are keenly aware of that connection.
If there is one weakness, it might be that viewers often catch their “friends” in convulsions of laughter when The Five resumes after a commercial break. Since the “joke” is rarely revealed, there is a sense of being left out of the loop, much the same as you feel when sitting in a coffee shop and not being part of an inside joke.
It’s a small price to pay, but as previously noted, The Five reflects a global social phenomenon that has been going on for centuries. Now it has come to television and it’s a combination of news and entertainment at its best.
One final aside, historically there was another group called The Five. They were Russian composers who met in St. Petersburg during the years 1856 – 1870. It was the goal of Mily Balakirev, Cesar Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikoloai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin to create music that was specifically Russian in nature. It was during that time that they also became known as The Mighty Handful.
The Five on FOX is a “Mighty Handful” all its own, and television is the better for it.
Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC, founder of The Magellan Travel Club which creates and escorts customized tours to Switzerland, France and Italy for groups of 12 or more. Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others. As author of The Century Clubbook, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 69 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries.
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