Fox News Channel daily show The Five, featuring five co-hosts discussing the news of the day, is built on the banter of its personalities. But in this work-from-home time, the remote talent has to work a bit harder to make the banter happen.
“What makes The Five a success is the chemistry, the back and forth,” said co-host Greg Gutfeld. “It’s what people come to see. If we’re not in the same room, it reduces our ability to read faces and moods.”
Co-host Juan Williams sets up in a van parked in front of his home in Washington, DC. Co-host Dana Perino is working out of a bedroom in her New Jersey home. Jesse Watters, also a co-host, is in a beach house in New Jersey.
Gutfeld is actually schlepping to the midtown Manhattan studio each day. He sports a mask heading into the office and out every day, washes his hands “like a crazy person,” he said, and does not socialize with coworkers.
“I like to go to the office every day,” Gutfeld said. “I really do enjoy leaving the house and going in.”
Executive producer Megan Albano is also working out of the Fox News headquarters.
Williams mentioned an “ordinary white van” that pulls up in front of his house each day around 2:30 or 3 p.m. Since late March, he’s been climbing in for the 5 p.m. show.
Williams normally spends Monday-Friday in New York to shoot The Five. In the days after the coronavirus took hold, Williams would go to Fox’s Washington bureau each day. Recently turning 66, he said, “I don’t think there’s any reason for me to have unnecessary exposure.”
Perino has been working from home since March 23. She shoots The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino at 2 p.m., reads to children for the online segment Story Time with Dana Perino, shoots The Five at 5 p.m. and records a podcast. She upgraded her house’s wifi to accommodate both her and her husband working from home.
Some viewers have noticed the train that zooms by near her home, tooting its horn.
“I’ve actually been able to fulfill all of my responsibilities in a pretty seamless way,” said Perino.
Watters began working from home last week. One hitch saw the show start without Watters, who was having WiFi issues. That worked out after a few minutes. Garbage bags are used to keep the sunlight out of the house. Watters got some laughs on the program last week when he revealed his pink shorts along with a suit jacket and tie.
“It’s a beachy vibe, but it works pretty well,” he said of his home studio.
Besides enjoying going to work, Gutfeld noted how pretty much everything works once he gets there. Garbage bags are not needed in the windows at 1211 Avenue of the Americas. “Everything is there, and you know it’s going to work,” he said.
In a nod to social distancing, Albano said the show shot on two floors in mid March. Today, two control rooms dictate the action.
Much of the public has become accustomed to Zoom meetings and social gatherings since the pandemic took over, and the funky delays that make conversing challenging. Albano calls the remote hosts on The Five “a real-life scenario.”
The hosts deal with a 1-2 second delay that can make the quick quips a bit harder to deliver. “It’s just not as smooth,” said Albano.
Watters described not being able to read body language from home. “Our show is built around banter, around our close proximity on the set,” he said. “With a two-second delay, the quick retorts don’t translate as well.”
Perino, for her part, mentioned “verbal bumper cars” at times taking place.
The awkward pauses aside, Williams said the remote setup and its delays have pushed everyone to be a better listener. “We’re forced to listen to each other more intently,” he said.
Ratings for The Five have skyrocketed. The 5 p.m. hour is challenging from those who work 9 to 5, but most of those folks are stuck in their homes. “People are home, and they’re invested in the story,” said Albano. “Hopefully they get some comfort in watching The Five.”
The show averaged 3.87 million total viewers in March, up 53% from March 2019. Daily briefings from President Trump have helped ratings too.
Inconveniences aside, the hosts of The Five said they’re happy to be working with so many layoffs across the country. “We’re incredibly lucky to be working,” said Gutfeld.
They hope they add a bit of levity to viewers’ lives at this trying time. “We try to make everyone else’s lives at home a little less boring,” said Gutfeld.
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.