“No matter where it went, it was the best decision I ever made as a programming executive,” says Suzanne Scott, Fox News’ chief executive, in an interview. These days, Dana Perino, Greg Gutfeld, Juan Williams and Jesse Watters host the show with a guest sitting in each day.
Originally conceived in 2011 as a program that would give more air time to a bevy of Fox News contributors who did not have their own roost on the schedule, “The Five” has delivered for Fox News in times both easy and difficult. It usually airs each afternoon, but for a period of a few months in 2017, it moved to primetime as Fox News dealt with the one-two punch of losing both Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly. Fox News originally launched it to fill in for the departure of the controversial Glenn Beck, whose program had come to an end.
“The Five” has never been outmatched by rival programming on CNN or MSNBC in either total viewers or in the demographic most favored by advertisers in news content, people between 25 and 54. In March, according to Nielsen, its overall viewership surged 21% and rose 2% in the demo.
“It’s a great show for us, and it’s a great show for America, actually,” says Scott, who had a role in the program’s creation.
She recalls watching a pilot involving some of the program’s original personalities, particularly Gutfeld, who had been hosting his own late-night show on Fox News, and Perino, the former White House Press Secretary under President George W. Bush. The two were placed next to one another, as Fox News executives tried to determine which combinations of anchors would best connect with the audience. “The two of them had never met before that day,” says Scott. “The chemistry was natural. They are both really smart. He’s incredibly clever and funny and she’s sort of the straight smart one.”
Scott says she turned to look at John Finley, a veteran Fox News executive who has had a hand in developing many of the network’s recent programs. “We knew this was going to be a hit.”
Others appeared to take notice. “The Five” first started as a fill-in program before being made a permanent part of the Fox News line-up. By November of 2011, Entertainment Weekly critic Ken Tucker praised the show for the way it showed a squabbling “family” of hosts bickering over the issues of the day. “The Five,” he said, was a “delightfully nutty show with an undercurrent of ragin’ crazy.” By June of 2012, MSNBC had launched “The Cycle,” a 3 p.m. panel show featuring Krystal Ball, S.E. Cupp, Steve Kornacki and Toure.
“I believe a show like ‘The Five’ reflects how many of us live our lives — with family and friends having varying backgrounds and opinions on a wide range of topics from politics to crime and culture stories to water-cooler topics…and even if we are debating or disagreeing about something, we can end every topic laughing and feeling good,” says Scott. “And that is what we see on ‘The Five’ — they can disagree and debate but still have fun and laugh together in the end.”
The show has also been good for its hosts. Perino got her own hour on Fox News in October of 2017. Gutfeld has moved on to a Saturday-night program.
As for “The Five” itself? The show nabs more viewers at 5 p.m. – approximately 2.6 million – than programming on ESPN, Nickelodeon or HGTV.