The Fox News Channel created The Five in 2011. A hit seemingly from the beginning, in 2023 The Five can claim a bigger audience than any other Fox show.
Why the mention of the The Five in a piece of commentary about Tucker Carlson and his separation from Fox? The Five is telling simply because it’s indicative of how skillful Fox’s producers are when it comes to creating big hits.
The Five may help explain the network’s willingness to part ways with its biggest stars. The actor George Clooney long ago referred to actors as “the paint,” and it seems the powers-that-be at Fox feel the same about on-air talent as Clooney does about those he increasingly directs. The producers and executives at the network are the real stars. It’s not an unreasonable viewpoint.
Figure that Fox began in 1996 in the face of major skepticism. There had long been an expressed belief that print and television media leaned left, but never a concerted, well-funded effort by anyone to prove it. Rupert Murdoch and Fox proved the supposition, which makes Fox executives, not its hosts, the geniuses. In other words, an organization created in the face of enormous skepticism wouldn’t be fearful about cutting ties with one of its biggest, most popular personalities in Carlson. Big risks are what got it to where it presently is.
From there, it’s worth pointing out that Fox didn’t just succeed with The Five. Consider Gutfeld!. The late night talk show category has long been well populated, and by major names like Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel. No problem, at least seemingly to Fox. Having detected and groomed a big talent like Greg Gutfeld (an original and ongoing cast member of The Five), the higher ups at Fox saw yet another opportunity with a late-night show hosted by him, and once again they’ve been proved right.
What of Fox’s other daytime, and evening hosts? Did they arrive as stars? There’s an argument that Lou Dobbs (let go in 2021) was a name upon arrival, Maria Bartiromo brought fame from CNBC, but in general it’s safe to say that its various hosts didn’t reach Fox as household names as much they became household names while at Fox.
What about Carlson? His fame from CNN and MSNBC surely predated his arrival at Fox, but at the same time he’d been toiling for a reasonably long time in relative obscurity on Fox & Friends as a weekend co-host. This is of importance mainly because news accounts from way back when indicated that Rupert Murdoch himself tapped Carlson as a replacement for Greta Van Susteren in the 7 pm hour, where he plainly thrived. Which is the point, or should be. It was Murdoch who placed Carlson where he was best positioned to succeed, only for Murdoch et al to reveal programming acumen yet again.
Indeed, it’s too easily forgotten how popular Bill O’Reilly was and what nerve it took for Fox to jettison him in 2017. Except that severing ties with talent isn’t nervy when the star is the network itself. Popular as Carlson was in the 7 pm slot, he reached his popularity zenith in O’Reilly’s old seat.
None of what’s been written should be construed as a knock on the wildly talented, and extraordinarily friendly Carlson. It’s merely an attempt to understand why Fox would part ways with the ratings gold that Carlson represented; ratings it hasn't yet reclaimed in his absence. The answer seems to be that Fox can cut ties with stars because it can, and it can because Fox, not its hosts, is the star.