E!’s The Soup is the funniest show on television. I have long thought that E!’s pop-culture skewering clip show was worthy of such high praise, in part because its producers and crew accomplish so much with so little. Working with a handful of video clips and a low budget, they generate funnier product on a more consistent basis than almost anyone else on television. I often find The Soup to be more satisfying than late-night comedy staples Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, not to mention Mad TV and Saturday Night Live, and some weeks it makes me laugh more than any of the situation comedies on network schedules.
As they say in Hollywood, The Soup always delivers “the funny.” (Yes, writers in Hollywood actually talk that way. No wonder they’re having problems.)
Suddenly, The Soup—a non-union show unaffected by the WGA strike—is standing tall as the only topical comedy program of note that is continuing to deliver outrageously funny originals on its usual schedule. (A new episode debuts every Friday night at 10 p.m. ET and then goes into rerun rotation through the following week.)
Okay, I suppose I should mention that E! currently produces another original series that pokes fun at popular culture (among other topics), the talk show Chelsea Lately starring comedienne Chelsea Handler. It is, like The Soup, a non-union show, and it runs weeknights at 11:30 p.m., where it is now an alternative to all those talk show reruns on the networks. Handler can be quite amusing, but IMHO her show doesn’t deliver “the funny” as consistently as The Soup, so I’m sticking with my statement that The Soup stands alone.
This week E! premiered the first of six year-in-review spin-off specials titled The Soup Presents that deliver just as much “funny” as the mother show. (New specials will debut on Monday nights through December 17th.) That’s all well and good, because awesome Soup host Joel McHale and the inmates in his asylum deserve all the network time they can get. But if I ruled the world, or at least the scheduling division at E!, I would do whatever is necessary to begin running original installments of The Soup weeknights at 11:30 p.m. ET (with repeats in primetime), if only on a temporary basis. (Chelsea Lately could move forward to 11 p.m. or back to 12 a.m. to accommodate it, giving E! a potent late-night presence.) Daily production might be a tall order for what is essentially a clip show with a few visual gags sprinkled on top. But with unscripted series poised to take over television the producers of The Soup should be in good shape, since reality shows provide the raw material for most of their funniest bits.
The Soup is razor sharp and riotously silly in its take on the bad behavior of such dignity don’ts as Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Tara Reid. But it really comes alive when it zeroes in on television, from the countless curious moments on daytime talk shows (Ellen’s doggie dilemma, Oprah complainin’ that her “va-jay-jay is painin’,” everything Tyra says or does) to the ongoing car-crash horror of all those celebreality shows on VH1 and E!
Yes, that E! The guys on The Soup aren’t afraid to bite the hand that feeds them, and they do so in a weekly segment titled Let’s Take Some E! Nobody on the network is safe—not the Kardashians or Hugh Hefner or Dr. Rey and his breast-implant beauties—and especially not the painfully overexposed E! News host Ryan Seacrest, one of McHale’s favorite targets. McHale once told me that Seacrest forbids E! employees to make eye-contact with him in the hallways or the restrooms at E!’s offices and production facilities. He was joshing. I think.
The Soup even tears into the telenovelas on Univision and Telemundo. What other show does that?
Much of the credit for the success of The Soup goes to the multi-talented McHale, who was great last night in a guest role as a polygamist dog-breeder on ABC’s new hit Pushing Daisies. (Friends on The Soup’s MySpace page went wild within minutes of his character’s death.) Clearly, he deserves a bigger and broader career beyond that of basic cable clip show host. But I hate to think of The Soup without him. Maybe he’ll consider keeping that gig on the side when something better comes along, as it inevitably will.
By: Ed Martin
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