Fox News rethinks talking heads TV with The Wise Guys tonight

In recent months, the Fox News Channel has been expanding its original programming on Sunday nights. The shows have included one with a new host, a provocative historical documentary series, and an unusual discussion program, The Wise Guys, which is scheduled to get its second airing tonight, Sunday March 18th  at 8 P.M. E.T./P.T.

The Wise Guys’ concept is simple, but it stands out among today’s typical cable news fare. A moderator, Bill Bennett, author, talk show host, and former Education Secretary in President Reagan’s cabinet, engages four “wise” guests from different backgrounds in a wide-ranging discussion of current events. The guests for this round are Fox Business Network and Fox News Channel anchor Maria Bartiromo, former Bush II press secretary Ari Fleischer, Oliver North, who since 2001 has hosted the excellent ongoing series War Stories originally on Fox News and now on Fox Business, and Robert Bennett, the well-connected Washington, D.C. lawyer whose clients have included President Bill Clinton. Robert and Bill Bennett are brothers who are on opposite sides of the ideological divide. They rarely appear together on television and their interaction tonight should be interesting to watch.

Maria Bartiromo and Ari Fleischer on The Wise Guys: D.C. Edition

Here are some of the things that set The Wise Guys apart:

It consists of a casual, thoughtful, mutually respectful discussion with no voices raised in attack.

The setting, as it was when the show premiered on January 7, is a round dining table in a high end restaurant that is set for dinner – no studio lighting, backgrounds, props, CGI graphics, or TelePrompTers (other than perhaps to prompt the host on intros and outros).

The state-of-the-art production values and camera work entail soft focus and subtle lighting, which make the show pleasant to watch and establish a relaxed mood.

The old  CNN Crossfire shoutfest this is not.

Alan Dershowitz on The Wise Guys January 7, 2018

Episode 1 of The Wise Guys on January 7 was recorded in a private dining room setting at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Bill Bennett moderated and the guests were Alan Dershowitz, emeritus Harvard Law professor, Oliver North, Ari Fleischer – and Steve Wynn who at the time was a 75-year-old billionaire and chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts. Less than three weeks later, an article in the Wall Street Journal detailed, according to NPR, “disturbing — and at times graphic — allegations of Wynn's sexual misconduct against Wynn Resorts employees over decades.” Wynn’s decades long career as a signature Nevada gaming and resort developer quickly collapsed and he is now in limbo facing multiple lawsuits.

The Wise Guys Episode 1 was a strong ratings winner, overwhelming the competition on CNN and MSNBC in both of its showings at 8 and 11 P.M. E.T. on January 7. It thus mirrored the success of two other recent entries in Fox News’ Sunday night schedule, the just concluded seven-part review of the Clinton scandals on Scandalous and Mark Levin’s new Sunday night long form interview program Life, Liberty & Levin, which will have its third airing tonight at 10 P.M. E.T./P.T.

The programmers at Fox News are to be congratulated for taking risks and trying out some new concepts, all three of which so far have proven to be successful.

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran reporter and analyst of news on national politics, media, and popular culture.  He is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  Follow Peter on Twitter at @pchowka.

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