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Lousy News: Red Eye, One of Cable TV’s Best Shows, Gets Canceled

Groundbreaking Fox program took the piss out of politics and gave space to libertarian deplorables

On Monday afternoon, without any real prior warning, the on-air talent and behind-the-scenes weirdos of Red Eye, the past decade's most oddly compelling cable news program, were told by Fox management that their show would be euthanized this Friday. Thus ends not just the most voluminously friendly venue for Reason staffers over that time period (including at 3 a.m. ET tonight, when I will be on), but also the terra firma in a broadcast micro-climate friendly to those many of us who can't fit neatly into the square (or round) pegs of political media. It's a sad day, y'all.

The show was co-founded and anchored by Greg Gutfeld, a sort of impish hell-spawn of Andrew Breitbart and Johnny Rotten, back in 2007 (watch Reason TV's 2012 interview with Gutfeld here). With co-conspirators Bill Andrew Schulz (*see bottom of post), a spittle-flecked degenerate metrosexual, and Andy Levy, a semi-taciturn libertarian Army vet, the show was both a lifeline for political insomniacs and a Dadaist laboratory for defacing the boundaries of cable news. Examples of such abound in the Twitter timeline of Gutfeld, who continues to co-anchor daily on The Five as well as hosting his own weekly Fox News Channel show. As Nick Gillespie wrote upon the introduction of the latter:

For my money, Greg Gutfeld is the most consistently funny and insightful conservative/libertarian critic of the news media and broadly defined culture industry. Certainly, he is the only person on the planet who admires equally both former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) and post-punk standouts The Melvins (indeed, band founder Buzz Osbourne is a regular guest on various Gutfeld shows).

At his best (which is to say, basically every day he shows up for work), Gutfeld casts a hugely wide net of references and knowledge about politics and culture and, most important, is absolutely honest about where he's coming from and why.

To be honest, I wish he were more consistently libertarian but what are you gonna do, really?

Gutfeld was replaced two years back by the genial comedian Tom Shillue; here's what he was saying tonight:

So why was the show 86ed? Not the ratings, I don't think—FNC is coming off the most successful quarter in cable news history, and staffers were told it wasn't about numbers. Rather, the network said it wanted more live news at 3 a.m.

Well, color me skeptical. As a general rule I do not meddle in the affairs of cable news executives, for they are subtle and quick to anger, but the most generous interpretation of this move is that they aim to maximize the recent public explosion of public interest in political news programming, while maybe saving a buck or two. This strikes me as remarkably pound-foolish at a moment when FNC's junior network features a Red Eye-resonant show, Kennedy, which has been going gangbusters since the election. If you want to solve the median-viewer-is-73 problem, you should be preferencing programs that feature youthful anchors not hidebound to the usual political predictability, IMO.

All of which may or may not be fine advice, but I just want to give thanks to everyone at the Red Eye juggernaut for providing viewers a decade of much-needed laughs at the expense of politics, while giving some of us the reps we needed to go out into less friendly climates to talk about this stuff. Your presence will be missed, even as your influence spreads far beyond your broadcast footprint.

Here's Anthony Fisher interviewing Andy Levy two years ago:

* The final indignity! Bill Shultz, whose booting from the show a few years back remains the greatest fan mystery in Red Eye history, is well enough known to me that I have written for him in magazine-world and enjoyed baseball games in his general vicinity. He has plenty of close and distant relations in the industry, including Andrew, who I also know, and, well, it was 2:20 in the morning! But Bill is one of the handful of most talented TV personalities I've ever worked next to.

Photo Credit: Fox

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Ideological decision? I have no idea what drives Fox News execs these days, but do insomniacs and farmers really need more news tits on their screen at the wee hours? Or are we just weeding out the loose cannons who might go off script?

  • Not a True MJG||

    I thought it was a legs show.

  • Nuwanda||

    Red Eye has mellowed horribly. In its first couple of years it was pretty outrageous, often subversive and occasionally obscene. If it was gonna get booted for going off script it would have been prior to 2010, mainly because there appeared to be very little scripting involved.

  • classical liberal||

    What the fuck? Ever since Stossel retired, all I've had to watch on their whole damn network is this and Kennedy.

  • ||

    And that's that.

    /Sylvester.

    These sort of things remind me of grocery stores that pull items you like off the shelf without warning or explanation. Very wtf.

  • Wizard with a Woodchipper||

    I believe the name of the impish metrosexual was Bill Schultz, not Andrew Schultz.

  • colorblindkid||

    I liked Shillue as a panelist, but not as a host. I stopped watching it when Greg left. I wish instead of giving Greg his new show they just moved Red Eye to his Sunday slot, or made his new show a similar format.

  • Necron 99||

    After Greg Gutfeld left I quit watching Red Eye. Tom is a great guy, but he is a comedian talking about politics where Greg was a political commentator that is just funny as hell. I did not agree with Greg on a lot of issues but Red Eye was still a great show.

    I was going to go to a book signing for Greg, my mission was to have him sign it, "Of all my former pool boys, you were one." Unfortunately my plans got cancelled. Maybe next time.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    Seeing Matt and Nick on this show was my gateway into libertarianism.

  • Double Bummed||

    This is a devastating move by Fox. I have been a Red Eye fan since day one. Admittedly, they were a little rough in the beginning, but hanging in there was worth wait. Through the years, there have been some exceptionally insightful and hilarious panelists. Guys like Dave Smith and Jimmy Failla always had great things to say. I miss Gavin McInness, who is another exceptional talent.

    I saw where another poster said that the only two shows they watched on Fox was Red Eye and Kennedy. So true. These two shows are like the crazy uncle that lives in your basement. You can't take him out in public, but you can't wait to hear the next wild thing he says.

    Red Eye will truly be missed at my house. I DVR the show and watch it everyday during lunch (I work from home). It always brightens my day and gets me through to Happy Hour. I will really miss you guys. Good luck to everyone.

  • Brandybuck||

    Back in the day when I needed an insomniacs show, the Red Eye wasn't around. Instead it was choice between Larry King who had not yet gone mainstream, and Art Bell who had not yet been kidnapped by aliens.

  • SparktheRevolt||

    I think my introduction to many of my favorite reason people was through RedEye. Early on, (and even still now) there were a lot of libertarian voices that further entrenched my curiosity towards the mindset. I know it was my first encounter with people like Michael Moynihan (whom for years I thought was Canadian) with his odd but enjoyable appearances, along with Matt, Nick and a bunch of others. I'd imagine, given Matt's very sweet eulogy, that RedEye was very much a furtive ground for attracting eyeballs to Reason and similar outlets. Hell, I literally would never intentionally watch FoxNews in a million years outside of RedEye. The same goes for FNB with Stossel/The Independents and now Kennedy. For insomniacs or those with otherwise odd sleep schedules, it was a welcomed departure from regular cable news fare.

    With that said, I can see ratings dropping off with Tom as the host. Personally, his Trumphilia (at least his on-air persona) is a turn-off. I'd also imagine that the gaggle of anti-Trump voices and satire that sneak through on the show probably don't mesh well anymore with a network that has positioned itself as a quasi-propaganda arm of the current administration (while the majority of Red Eye's run was during The Devil's Reign). Why expense a possible opposing viewpoint when they can re-run another Trump Tongue Bathing Hour for free? Gotta sell that gold and catheter ad space.

  • Nuwanda||

    You're contradicting yourself. If Fox is pushing the Trump agenda and Tom Shillue is a Trump fan (which he is), then that's every reason to not only retain the show but promote it far more than Fox ever bothered to.

  • SparktheRevolt||

    Not at all. It's still cost-prohibitive to keep the show running especially when you can re-air any other Trumpnut's show without any extra cost.

  • SparktheRevolt||

    Not at all. It's still cost-prohibitive to keep the show running especially when you can re-air any other Trumpnut's show without any extra cost.

  • CatherinewithaC||

    I miss the old RedEye, but still watched Andy's half time via iTunes podcast. Love Andy.

    Tom is nice, but he is a conservative alcolyte, not a sceptic and never challenges the party line in spite of the facts. In fact, he was often defending it, badly, with poor reasoning. Andy can run circles around Tom because Tom is such a true believer. I think the hosting job was better suited to someone who can remain more of a mediator. Instead they had someone rushing to defend Trump at every turn in Tom.

    Also the women used to be fun and smart like Lauren Sivan & Carrie Keegan. Now, it's a 25 year old know nothing who barges through like a lawyer ready for battle for the republican cause. Like Andy would say, come on man.

    Animal videos. Miss them.

    I apologize for nothing!

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