What might last longer: Greg Gutfeld's new show on the Fox News Channel, or the search for the escaped convicts in upstate New York?
First and foremost a writer rather than a traditional TV pundit, Greg Gutfeld is one of the most creative minds in the cable news universe, but his recently rolled out program has yet to reflect that.
The irreverent and unpredictable Gutfeld is the former magazine editor and ex-Huffington Post blogger who has developed a huge following after taking his talents to FNC and, as a result, becoming a host or co-host on several programs at the same time. "Known for his quick and acerbic wit on Fox series like Red Eye and The Five, Gutfeld represented a logical choice for Fox News CEO Roger Ailes to take another stab at trying something a bit different in primetime," observed Variety.
After months of prep, Gutfeld's heavily promoted and widely anticipated 10 p.m. Sunday night satirical platform premiered on May 31, and even the most devoted admirers (i.e., completely excluding those who hate on the show even without watching it merely for blindly ideological reasons) deemed it an amateurish and stiff bore.
In the aftermath of the first hour-long installment, Gutfeld claimed on The Five (his Monday-through-Friday gig) that his self-named show's viewers either liked it or didn't understand it. Spin much?
FNC rules the cable news world, and the debut episode still defeated MSNBC, CNN, and HLN in the ratings, although it finished fourth in the age 25-54 demographic.
A libertarian-oriented conservative, Gutfeld has turned over the permanent hosting duties of Red Eye to equally unpredictable and quirky comedian Tom Shillue. With his contacts in show biz, the new host may be able to revitalize the 3 a.m. offering.
With some tweaks, the subsequent three episodes of The Greg Gutfeld Show -- the content for which oddly comes across like Red Eye 2.0 -- have only been marginally better, however, likely prompting many viewers to reach for their clickers or delete the listing from their DVRs altogether.
Not to minimize the serious domestic and international challenges facing our country, but maybe the fundamental problem is that the Sunday night TV audience in general has different expectations, i.e., desiring a more entertainment focus as the weekend winds down rather that the same political noise that forms a regular feature on Fox and all other TV news outlets.
Back in the day, conservative gadfly Alan Keyes anchored a show on MSNBC before its hard-left turn (so did Michael Savage, if you can believe that) called Alan Keyes Is Making Sense. The very first topic on Keyes' very first show was about military tribunals for enemy combatants. That debate had been covered over and over by then on cable news, and the topic selection simply didn't make sense. MSNBC cancelled his show after about five months.
Greg Gutfeld is a master wordsmith and editorialist, but what was formerly known as Greg-alogues, his insightful commentary pieces, perhaps may be more suited to The Five from now on.
Moreover, there seems to be minimal chemistry with the other regulars on his new show, and the jokes generally seem way too forced, and not helped by Greg's continual guffawing.
If you've ever seen a movie trailer that consistently shows the actors laughing in the scene montages, it's pretty much a lock that the actual film won't be at all funny.
Other than Gavin McInnes, most of the guests so far have fallen short of adding value -- again, at least in their Sunday night incarnation. The separate, pre-taped interludes also have been flat.
Launching a new show is hard work, and admittedly it's easy to level criticism from the comfort of the couch next to a bag of Doritos. That being said, it also wouldn't be the first successful TV series that took a while to find its footing.
It's worth noting that unlike Jon Stewart or other hosts on Comedy Central, for example, Gutfeld does not have an army of behind-the-scenes writers and producers propping him up.
Perhaps the basic problem with the so-far painful Sunday night Greg Gutfeld Show is summed up by Activity Pit user "Pepo."
"IMHO Greg's unique talents are his nimbleness in a conversation and his wit and intelligence in writing and delivering a monologue. Those are the main reasons why Red Eye was such a brilliant show. He also surrounded himself with the perfect people for the perfect roles to fill out the show. Greg needs some talented performers around him to flesh out the ideas in his brain. He's not a very good actor nor does he ever seem comfortable delivering a straight joke. His self-conscious laugh is also more evident here than it ever was on Red Eye. Laughing at your own lines is usually uncomfortable to the viewer."Added user ChrisG, who has been providing detailed content analysis of the Sunday night program as it has been going along, "A little worried that the show is already falling into a rut before they even truly figure out what they are doing. It might keep doing things whether they work or not." [Added: According to ChrisG, The Greg Gutfeld Show is capturing about 600,000 total viewers -- "That is not great, but not horrible enough for Fox to consider canceling it."]
After the first episode aired, an anonymous commenter on Deadline Hollywood similarly admitted that "I love Greg Gutfeld, but this show is terrible. I miss Red Eye so much. Please Greg, go back to Red Eye!" Another commenter noted that "Greg is great whenever he is spontaneous, freewheeling, impromptu, and making comments off-the-cuff. You must revamp the Show to bring out Greg's genius instead of having all of these canned segments."
So what can be done? A few suggestions.
- Bring Bernard McGuirk on the show, and let Bernie and Greg riff like they do on their hilarious weekly O'Reilly segment. Other recycled Fox contributors should be back-burnered if possible.
- Give Greg additional creative staffers to help flesh out the program.
- Cover more pop culture topics (given that an overlap exists between culture and politics), but tone down some of the heavy political subject matter, unless it can be distinguished from what has already been said by other TV chattering skulls.
- Ditch the cheesy studio set, even if it's purposely meant to be cheesy.
- Reevaluate the roles of the two other regulars on the show.
- Schedule guests that will disagree with the host.
- Eliminate the very lame "liberal panel."
While there may a rush to judgment at this stage, how would you fix The Greg Gutfeld Show?
[Image credit: Loadmaster]