Critic's Notebook: Fox Nation Should Close Its Borders

Tomi Lahren - Getty - H 2018
Michael S Schwartz/Getty

Fox News' new streaming service offers insatiable right-wing viewers the opportunity to gorge themselves on ultra-conservative programming 24 hours a day.

President Donald Trump sent out a tweet Monday afternoon calling for the creation of a state-run worldwide television network. The next day saw the premiere of Fox Nation, the new streaming offshoot of Fox News that basically fulfills that function. And he didn't even have to sign an executive order to make it happen.

Designed for viewers who find that the broadcast arm of Fox News adheres too closely to its former slogan, "Fair and Balanced," the service offers diehard fans the opportunity to gorge themselves on endless hours of pro-Trump programming for the modest fee of $5.99 a month. Because as anyone who watches Fox News knows, one just can't get enough of such uplifting personalities as Sean Hannity and Tomi Lahren. It seems a hard sell, even for the most devoted right-wingers. I mean, I enjoy watching Rachel Maddow and Mika & Joe as much as the next liberal, but an hour a day seems plenty.

Fox Nation exhorts viewers to "start your morning" with Tomi Lahren: First Thoughts, which, appropriately enough, rattles your nerves far more effectively than a strong cup of coffee ever could. On premiere day, Lahren delivered a breathless rant using copious air quotes. Decrying the "bum rush into the country" by the migrant caravan composed mostly of "teen males," she railed against the "bleeding hearts" who tell us "sob stories" about the "angelic caravaners." In a later edition, Lahren blasted congressional Republicans for not supporting Trump by building a "big, beautiful border wall."

"Are you afraid of the emotional backlash?" she taunted Republicans. (Maybe they are and maybe they aren't, but I wouldn't blame them for being afraid of Tomi Lahren.)   

Lahren's segments are at least coherent, especially compared to After the Show Show, in which the Fox & Friends hosts remain on the couch for a few minutes to discuss such important matters as Janice Dean's sore neck. On premiere day, the other personalities offered her advice ranging from heating pads to gentle massage to vodka. The last suggestion steered the conversation into an enthusiastic endorsement of the martinis served at Del Frisco's.

"Do you think it's stress-related?" Steve Doocy asked Dean concernedly about her condition. It was a good guess, since watching too much Fox & Friends is definitely stressful. A later segment featured Beach Boy Mike Love, who told the hosts that his new holiday album serves as "a gentle reminder that Christmas is actually a Christian holiday."

Patriot's Almanac provides a brief account of an important event in history that occurred on the date. The first episode concerned Nov. 27, 1973, when the Senate voted to confirm Gerald Ford as vice president. Ford ascended to that office after the resignation of Spiro Agnew and became president after the resignation of Richard Nixon, so you have to give Fox Nation credit for reminding us of such an ignoble period in Republican Party history. They'll certainly have more opportunities to do so in the future, such as the date when Robert Mueller issues his report.

Primetime Highlights provides a dizzying recap of the previous night's harangues, I mean monologues, by Fox News' star primetime players. The first segment of the program hosted by "Carley and Rob" included snippets of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, all hewing to the network's current "all border, all the time" policy. Carlson railed against the "caravan chaos," accusing the Democrats of promoting "socialism," "open borders" and a "massive social welfare state." Hannity blasted the "so-called asylum speakers" and took the opportunity to lambaste Fox's favorite new foil, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, whom he dismissively labeled a "rock star." And Ingraham urged Republicans to take action against "asylum loopholes" while they still have control of the House, suggesting that they shut down the government if necessary. (So anyone not receiving their government checks should feel free to blame her personally.) Another episode provided footage of Carlson decrying the "mainstream media." Someone might want to inform him that the opposite of "mainstream" is "fringe."  

The service features numerous "featured" programs, including the series The First Family: Donald J. Trump. The premiere episode focused on Eric Trump, with an interview conducted by Maria Bartiromo in what appropriately appeared to be a giant bank vault. Eric described his childhood in a desperate but unconvincing attempt to make his father seem like a caring parent. He seemed most animated when discussing his parents' divorce.

Scandalous delivers "never before seen director's cut" episodes of the documentary series chronicling political scandals of the '90s. Meaning, of course, those related to Bill and Hillary Clinton, who really should be getting a share of Fox News' profits for all of the raw material they've provided. This is the perfect show for anyone who has a craving to once again see Bill declaring, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

Oprah Winfrey has nothing to worry about from Dana Perino's Book Club, in which the self-described bibliophile interviews notable authors. Well, at least one notable author, since the first two episodes featured historian Joseph Ellis and Fox News personality Greg Gutfeld, the latter responsible for such seminal tomes as The Joy of Hate and Lessons From the Land of Pork Scratchings.

The Quiz Show, hosted by Tom Shillue, promises to provide "tasty trivia tidbits and frivolous fun facts." The premiere episode featured Jesse Watters, described by the host as a "Fox News superstar and teen heartthrob," answering such brain-teasers as: "What are baby porcupines called?" (The answer is "porcupettes." There, I've just saved you $5.99.) 

Among the programs breathlessly announced as "coming soon" are Ainsley's Holiday Special (because what would the holidays be without Ainsley Earhardt?) and Ronald Reagan's Star Wars, which just goes to show that no character in that long-running franchise is ever really dead.