And just like that, week one of Fox’s newest show—Jesse Watters Primetime—is coming to a close. What have we learned from the hour-long program that b
And just like that, week one of Fox’s newest show—Jesse Watters Primetime—is coming to a close. What have we learned from the hour-long program that billed itself as a platform for “exposing scoundrels and celebrating patriots”?
In the premiere episode, Jesse Watters, who has spent two decades at Fox, cohosts The Five, and previously had his own weekend show, promised viewers he would use his new program to stand up for regular Americans who “have been disrespected for far too long.” Sounds familiar, and indeed Watters used the opening monologue to try on his best Tucker Carlson impression, mimicking his more notorious colleague’s faux-populist rage toward nameless elites while condemning Wall Street corruption and America’s “shamefully mismanaged” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Ignorant, greedy leaders sold out our factories and pride to the Chinese Communists for unpatriotic profits,” Watters said. “Sick cyber warriors divided us by race to distract us from the real division: class.”
Carlson’s show has long dominated Fox News’s ratings, with more than 3 million average viewers on a nightly basis last year and an endless stream of viral clips to prove it, and it seems that Watters—and the network—know a winning formula when they see it. To borrow a phrase from the NFL analysts, it’s a copycat league, and Watters’ show, for now at least, serves up the same Fox Corp–approved right-wing populism that viewers have grown accustomed to during Carlson’s reign as the king of cable news. Though, Watters does offer viewers a lighter, more comedic touch than the self-serious host running the 8 p.m. hour. Rather than scowling at liberal elites with “Tucker Face”––pinched eyebrows, head cocked to the side, mouth slightly ajar––Watters wears a near-constant smirk. Rather than hamming up the righteous indignation, he casually laughs off figures like Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, often lazily dropping in barely relevant movie clips mid-monologue to hit punchlines or drive home points for him. Though, Watters’s reliance on cheap humor from his production crew might be for the best, given that his droning, one-track voice lacks the range necessary to believably sell fist-slamming-desk rage and conviction. Perhaps sensing his constraints as a solo act, the showrunners at Fox packed the opening week of Watters’s show with A-list Trumpworld guests, including Mike Pence, Jeanine Pirro, Dan Bongino, and Eric Trump.
Presentation aside, the similarities between Watters and Carlson’s programming are hard to miss, and it is difficult to imagine a world in which the former’s show exists without the latter laying the groundwork for it. Like Carlson, a Trinity College alumnus, Watters, also a Trinity grad, is suddenly a champion of the working class who is speaking out against corporate powers and Democratic leaders who he believes have abandoned blue-collar Americans. Carlson even has Watters––who, not too long ago, was Fox’s de facto spring break correspondent––discussing far-right European populism, with the two weighing in on Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán’s immigration policies during an episode of The Five this week. Somehow, the pair seem to have developed the same fascination with why female cartoons are now dressing “less sexy,” a description that Carlson used last week while fuming over the makeovers of M&M’s candy mascots. Watters, presumably after seeing all the attention that Carlson received for speaking out against sexually “unappealing” animated chocolates, spent a segment of his Wednesday show lamenting Disney’s decision to change Minnie Mouse’s wardrobe. “I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but Disney is totally changing Minnie Mouse. Disney is putting Minnie Mouse in a pantsuit,” said Watters, before asserting that Disney executives must be “bored out of their minds and they’re just making it all uncomfortable for the rest of us.”
Another cause that Watters jumped on board with this week is the “day traders…making a fortune or a name for themselves outside the confines of corporate America.” This appeared to be a reference to incidents like last year’s GameStop short squeeze, when small-time traders helped the video game retailer’s stock surge in an attempt to beat out major financial firms that were attempting to short its stock. At the time, Carlson praised “the Reddit guys” who rallied around GameStop, saying that they sent a message to Wall Street. Likewise, Watters has made appeals to this demographic of young and very online traders, some of whom have criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s involvement in the stock market. “So while Nancy slow-walks antitrust legislation to break up Big Tech, her family [is] taking advantage and laughing all the way to the bank. They must think we’re idiots,” Watters said during a segment dubbing Pelosi “The Wolf of Washington.”