×

In a bright, wide-open studio at Fox News’ Manhattan headquarters, where cable-news programs often stick to tried-and-true formats, Dagen McDowell and Sean Duffy are trying something a little unexpected: an experiment.

Larry Kudlow just wrapped his after-market Fox Business program, and the duo are taking advantage of the empty facility to rehearse banter for their new show, “Bottom Line,” slated to debut Monday evening at 6 p.m. Sure, they strike familiar chords, with a segment that examines how President Joe Biden’s White House has grappled with continued revelations of classified documents being found in his offices that eventually segues into a discussion of his son, Hunter Biden. But McDowell, a longtime correspondent, and Duffy, the former Republican Congressman from Wisconsin. are also trying to create new music.

“We definitely think about the world in the same way,” says McDowell,  during a recent interview.

Their new “Bottom Line” tests a format not seen often in recent months on Fox Business Network and Fox News Channel. Most of the opinion-skewing shows on cable news in late afternoon, early evening and primetime are of the “single host” variety and rely heavily on one person’s viewpoint. Duos haven’t been a mainstay of the networks’ opinion programming, and an aficionado would have to travel back to “Hannity & Colmes,” the Fox News primetime show that aired from 1996 to 2009, or the Fox Nation program “Laura & Raymond,” which featured Laura Ingraham and Raymond Arroyo, to find something similar. The show may also spur some memories of “Happy Hour,” the early-era Fox Business after-market program that had its hosts hold forth in a midtown bar.

“Bottom Line” isn’t looking for the conflict of politics that was at the heart of “Hannity & Colmes” and isn’t expecting the buzz of an after-work crowd. Instead, it’s seeking a new riff on a programming concept that has fast become the foundation of the Fox News Media schedule.

So-called “roundtable” programs — led by a multitude of anchors or hosts, not just one — have proven a winner at Fox News in recent years. Indeed, “The Five,” a 5 p.m. program that features Greg Gutfeld, Dana Perino, Jesse Watters, Jeanine Pirro and one from a rotation of left-leaning contributors, is Fox News’ most-watched program, rather than one of its primetime shows. That has led to the creation of similar shows at various times of day, including “Outnumbered” in daytime, “The Big Saturday Show” and “The Big Sunday Show” on weekends, and Greg Gutfeld’s late-night program on weeknights.

Fox Business is counting on McDowell and Duffy to continue to snare more viewers at 6 p.m. than the show’s main time-slow rival: CNBC’s “Mad Money” with Jim Cramer. In 2022, the previous inhabitant of Fox Business’ 6 p.m., “The Evening Edit with Elizabeth McDonald,” enjoyed a 14% advantage in overall audience, according to data from Nielsen.

“Bottom Line” is envisioned as a business-news program that tilts hard at politics and culture and Duffy and McDowell hope to spend more time than most shows do interviewing not just newsmakers, but average people affected by policy and news developments. Think about small business owner or parents of kids in school.

“We can tell the story through those who are talking about it or we can tell the story from the view of the actual people who are living the story in everyday life,” says Duffy.

Duffy and McDowell offer make an interesting pair. She’s a Fox News news-side veteran, and he’s a relative newcomer to the networks who spent eight years in Congress, and, as a younger man, turned up during a season of MTV’s “The Real World.” Both, however, have business bona fides. McDowell has worked on Fox Business’ “Mornings With Maria” for the past several years and spent time at Institutional Investor, SmartMoney and TheStreet. Duffy served on House Committee on Financial Services, as well as subcommittees examining insurance and consumer credit.

Both think their backgrounds — he’s from a small town in Wisconsin, she’s from a smaller one in southern Virginia — give them some insight into the stories they want to present. Her hometown “is very country and very rural,” says McDowell, who believes the duo will embrace “speaking not at the audience, but speaking for them.”