Palm Beach County is used to being at the center of politically- centered stories -- 2000 elections, anyone? -- but here's a new, unexpected distinction. Apparently, the county, which has leaned Democratic in every presidential election since 1992, has the second- highest viewership in the country for ... a FOX News show?
Maybe that's because "The Five," which in 2011 replaced "The Glenn Beck Show" and features a rotating cast of five opinionated hosts, doesn't have the pointed hard edge of Beck, "The O'Reilly Factor" or "The Sean Hannity Show."
Instead, it finds a more cordial, lighter chemistry in its alternating bench of personalities -- FOX personality Greg Gutfeld, financial analyst Eric Bolling, former George W. Bush press secretary Dana Perino, analyst and commentator Andrea Tantaros, attorney and former San Francisco First Lady Kimberly Guilfoyle, Democratic strategist and former Walter Mondale campaign manager Bob Beckel and author and journalist Juan Williams.
"We go beyond politics," explains executive producer Porter Barry. "Normal people think about things beyond politics, so our job is to inform them on things like entertainment, pop culture and relationship-type stories. We try to mix it up. That's the secret to it."
And it's working. The two-year-old show, which airs at 5 p.m., is now the second highest-rated cable news program, behind only the network's mighty "O'Reilly Factor." And according to Nielsen figures for 2013 to date, West Palm Beach is the show's second highest rated market, behind Fort Myers/Naples.
"I think it's like 'The View,' only not just for a primarily female audience," says Tom Duncan, president of Northwood University in West Palm Beach and a commentator for several local news channels. "I think there's a deliberate attempt to (attract) people who would not normally watch a political talk show about a serious topic."
Jeff McCall, professor of communications at DePauw University and an occasional FOX News guest, thinks that might be because "the Fox News audience tends to be a bit older than the national population. The percentage of people over 65 in Palm Beach County is almost 22 percent, compared to the national percentage of 13.3 percent. In addition, older or retired people are more likely home at 5 p.m. to watch the show, while many younger people are still at work or on the roads going home."
What those viewers find is "a more casual conversation that some of the other programs," he says. "And sometimes they do things for fun, whether its a stunt in the studio, like when they were playing with a Nerf ball. There's a different tone, and it doesn't hurt that there's a variety of people on there. They don't have the kind of raised voices like on a Chris Matthews or Sean Hannity type of show. They're also all photogenic, and that's not an accident."
Peter Cooper, an "over 50" FOX and "The Five" viewer in The Acreage, has noticed that, too, that "they have gorgeous women, who are also bright. That's a good strategy. Greg Gutfeld is funny and smart, and (Beckel) tries to interject with something liberal. They might cut the liberal off, but every once in a while, they get in a few good shots."
Executive producer Barry says, "No matter how you see the world there's something for everyone. We're not programming for a political viewer. It's not a partisan thing. It's for someone who wants to know what's going on in the world."
Co-host Andrea Tantaros, who calls herself the resident "pop culture junkie," likens it to "the very different personalities as a Thanksgiving dinner table. You know what that's like to have people in the family who are not all gonna agree, but all have a tremendous about of respect for each other. Pop culture may come up, or sports may come up.
"It's a water cooler show that's also a bit lighter. We're genuinely laughing. The biggest thing that people Tweet and say is 'What were you guys laughing about during the commercial break? We wanna know! We wanna feel part of it.' People invite us into their homes, and we bring them into the conversation. I think they like that."
Michael Carp, 57, of Juno Beach, who considers FOX "my source of world news," enjoys the "different slants" on "The Five."
"The panel participants all appear to like and enjoy one another, notwithstanding their divergence of opinion. I have also gained a respect for both Beckel and Williams for speaking their mind, even when it clashes with general progressive talking points and agenda ... It was about time."
Viewer Mark Traverso, 52, a partner in a direct marketing firm and a board member of Slow Burn Theatre in Boca Raton, considers himself "liberal but fairly conservative," and began watching FOX more around the presidential elections "because I thought they represented small business owners more effectively than any other network ... Bob Beckel does a great job of getting beat up every day and his style and approach is appreciated."
Ultimately, Northwood's Duncan thinks "The Five" is the FOX News show for people who didn't think they'd like FOX News shows.
Even though Palm Beach County skews Democratic, "there are still lots of conservatives here. People are hearing multiple sides of the issues from multiple perspectives, and it's not perhaps a typical FOX show. Its a little more lighthearted and funny, and easy to watch."
TOP FIVE FOR 'FIVE'
The top 5 local markets of FOX's "The Five" for 2013 to date:
1. Ft. Myers-Naples
2. West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce
3. Knoxville, Tenn.
5. Austin, Texas
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