Many years ago, the cable channel E! had a show called “Talk Soup.” It helped launch the careers of Greg Kinnear, John Henson and Aisha Tyler, and was primarily focused on making fun of what was, at the time, an explosion of lurid, voyeuristic daytime talk shows. The format was just the host standing in front of a green screen, introducing clips and making smart-aleck remarks about them.
At the time of “Talk Soup,” I didn’t get the E! channel, although I would see the show occasionally when traveling or what have you. I think I did get to see the last few months of Aisha Tyler.
“Talk Soup” went off the air for a little while and then re-emerged as just “The Soup,” hosted by a comedian named Joel McHale. It quickly became one of my favorites. By this time, the daytime talk show boom had subsided somewhat, and so the show’s net was expanded wider to include making fun of lurid, voyeuristic reality shows, including some airing on the E! network itself, and pop culture in general. The show still had one segment dedicated to daytime talk shows, and it was called “Chat Stew,” a silly reference to “Talk Soup.”
When it was announced that McHale was going to be the star of an NBC sitcom set in a community college, I was at first disappointed, because I figured it meant he would be leaving “The Soup.” Little did I know how brilliant “Community” would turn out to be — and McHale, who is apparently a workaholic, kept doing both shows throughout the run of “Community.”
Eventually, though, E! began to lose interest in “The Soup.” It moved the show around on the schedule, and (according to a recent interview) eventually told McHale and the producers to stop making so much fun of the Kardashians, which is a little bit like telling John Madden not to talk so much about football.
So “The Soup” was cancelled. But now, today, it’s been resurrected — in everything but name — as “The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale,” on Netflix. It’s one of the reasons I re-activated my Netflix subscription, and I watched the first episode this morning.
Director Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”) played a key role in getting Netflix to pick up the show, and is an executive producer. But, at McHale’s insistence, many of the same writers and producers from “The Soup” are working on the new show as well.
They don’t, and I assume can’t, use any of the old segment names or animated titles (“Chat Stew,” “Reality Show Clip Time,” “Chicks, Man”) because they, like the name “The Soup,” are the intellectual property of E!. And when one of the (male) writers turns up in a women’s swimsuit at the end of the show, McHale starts to call him “Mankini” but is shushed. “[I]’m known as One-Piece Man,” he’s told.
But, make no mistake — this is “The Soup,” just as you remember it.
Content-wise, for better or worse, they no longer have network standards and practices to worry about. McHale’s “Community” costar Allison Brie mutters the F-word under her breath in a cameo appearance, and there’s a segment, based on a clip from South African TV, making fun of the fact that the word for “child” in Afrikaans sounds, at least in the clip, like a very bad English word.
Right now, the show only has an order for 13 weeks, but I hope it’s successful enough for Netflix to keep it around — at least longer than “Other Space,” a wonderful sci-fi parody which Feig produced for Yahoo!