Culture

From 'Red Eye' to Red Face

 

 

I doubt that I have the ear of Fox News execs, but we did agree on one thing: Tom Shillue was the best choice to replace Greg Gutfeld on “Red Eye.”

However, had I known that Fox was going to put such meager resources behind “The Greg Gutfeld Show,” I would have recommended they stick with rotating guest hosts—and save Greg’s old seat for him.

In short (sorry Greg, I couldn’t resist) “The Greg Gutfeld Show” looks like a locally produced major market political talk show.  The set is no better than that of the Detroit Fox station, Channel 2’s “Let it Rip.”  (Whose title I’m sure would provoke merciless juvenile comments from any “Red Eye” panel.)

In fact, the bland set isn’t even as distinctive as “Red Eye’s.”  Come on, people!  This is prime time Sunday night television.  This is the night with the most viewers and where other networks park their signature shows.  You are looking to attract eyeballs, not repel them.

But Greg is still Greg—funny, sharp and on point, even if the one sight gag, the Liberal Panel (a talking wall), is kind of a rip off of Conan O’Brien’s Bill Clinton picture with the moving lips digitally imposed.

Which brings us to another problem. Conan did that when he was on in the wee hours of the morning.  What works with late night week night viewers does not translate to Sunday prime time.

And sometimes hosts are better suited to the later hours.  Even though he lasted a lonnng time at 11:30 p.m., David Letterman was at his best back in the 12:30 a.m. days.  The limitations of the earlier slot demanded that he lose the edge (though I will entertain arguments that it wasn’t the time change, but the change in Dave from identifying as a Hoosier to identifying as a New Yorker that was the problem.)

But I’m not willing to consign Greg Gutfeld to the dustbin of late late late night just yet.  He is a capable O’Reilly guest host (about the only time I watch a complete hour of “The Factor”) and, of course, he is the numero uno personality on “The Five,” which is a cable ratings smash hit.

While the show is brisk and witty, the energy level is really low.  Whether it’s the host’s fault or the production designs and concepts is yet to be proven.  So, here are 5 suggestions for Fox to raise the energy level and make “The Greg Gutfeld Show” a worthy competitor to Bill Maher and Jon Stewart.

1. Get a Studio Audience

The number one thing a comedian needs is an audience off which to play.  A guest or two chuckling is not enough.  Having an audience react to the guests would also bring their energy level up.

Even if booing liberals infiltrated, or Code Pink showed up and had to be dragged out by security, it would be SOMETHING, something to make the show feel immediate.

Heck, even Stossel gets a studio audience for his substance-heavy shows on libertarian economics and government boondoggles.  It’s far more essential for a comedic show to have this feedback.

2. Book Guests Outside of the Fox Stable

The first show featured Tucker Carlson, not exactly Mr. Energy.  And while Mary Katharine Hamm and Jonah Goldberg got more into the spirit of things—THEY ARE ON FOX NEWS ALL DAY LONG.

One of the attractions of early “Red Eye” was comedians and musicians one did not usually associate with a Fox News panel.  With a Sunday night show, it should be possible to expand that.

Also, get liberal guests, not just the “Panel.”  Keep the gag if you want, but give Greg someone to argue with, and not Juan Williams, Bob Beckel (if he ever comes back) or others from the collection of Straw Man Fox News Liberals.  Get interesting—and famous– people.

3. Make the Studio Look Like 2015, Not 1975

There’s really not much more to say here, and I’m no interior designer, but Tom Snyder would have thought this set looked old.

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4. Get a Somewhat Contrary Sidekick

Greg is at his best with Dana Perino, but there is already a show they dominate.  Many people think “Red Eye” hasn’t been the same since the departure of “Repulsive Sidekick” Bill Schultz.  I agree.  Of course, that might run against my contention that what works in late late night might not translate to prime Sunday, but I think Schultz and a studio audience would be a hoot. (Granted, the 8th grade locker room humor would need to be toned down for the Sunday night audience.)

If not, perhaps recruit a comedian like Sherrod Small or Bonnie McFarlane, who are moderate libs, and tell them their job is to be challenging and keep Greg honest.

Just don’t get a conservative, even great eye candy like Jedediah Bila or Joanne Nosuchinsky, since the married Gutfeld is not going to flirt enough to make that contentiously fun.  And both of them would be just too darned agreeable.

5. Put Some Bucks Behind Outside Filmed Segments

Some thought needs to be put into this.  Jesse Waters owns man-on-the-street for Fox (and even that is getting a bit old).  Kimmel does (and Jay Leno did) a great job on those, so why try to claim that territory?

Again, here is where Bill Schultz could come into play.  His outside segments were quirky enough to be different from Jay Walking and its imitators.

If not, some other well-produced and clever and satirical bits would spice things up.

And, I think, spicing up is all “The Greg Gutfeld Show” needs.  I wasn’t bored, and the base commentary is clever and good. But it’s not appointment TV… yet.  Especially in a killer time slot.