Is your TiVo programmed to record such timeless TV classics as: The Hills, America's Next Top Model, For the Love of Ray-J, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Denise Richards: It's Complicated, Rock of Love, Charm School, Daisy of Love, Bad Girls Club, The Tyra Banks Show, I Love Money 2, The Real World, Dancing With the Stars, The Celebrity Apprentice, From G's to Gents, The Girls of Hedsor Hall
, Judge Judy
, or the fourth hour of the Today Show
Neither is mine.
Fortunately Joel McHale & Co. monitor all of these fine programs-and countless others-on my behalf, identify their most absurd moments, then mock them mercilessly in an easy-to-swallow half hour of weekly television fun. Welcome to The Soup
, which airs Friday nights at 10pm ET on E!
The show, which has existed in various iterations for years, has reached new comedic heights on McHale's watch. In a nutshell, it features 22 minutes of distilled television trash; the very worst of what American culture has to offer. Degenerate attention-seekers looking for "true love?" Check. Startlingly self-absorbed celebrities padding their inflated egos? Indeed. Washed-up/cashed-strapped stars demeaning themselves for a paycheck? Oh yes. The Soup
peddles in the lowest- common-denominator programming that's beamed to cable boxes and satellite dishes from coast to coast every day.
So why bother to watch?
First of all, the show is hysterical. It's impressive to see what a group of good writers, a charismatic host, a green screen, and a few outrageous video clips can accomplish. While the humor sometimes falls short (the brief on-camera skits are generally pretty lame), McHale's sarcastic evisceration of what passes for entertainment these days reliably includes a handful of laugh-out-loud one liners. Often the clips themselves are so preposterous that they don't even require an additional punch line, but McHale delivers anyway.
Second, The Soup
serves up a convenient Cliff Notes guide to popular culture on a weekly basis. The fact that it's so entertaining is gravy. Like many people with jobs, I have neither the time nor the stomach to watch even a small fraction of the rubbish McHale skewers, but I still value having a basic awareness of the shows that millions of Americans-many of whom are my peers-regularly consume. Do I care if Spencer (and his creepy flesh-colored beard) and Heidi are still "married" on The Hills
? Of course not. But approximately 90 percent of high school girls (who will soon be eligible to cancel out my vote) know all about the picayune details of this soulless, made-for-tv couple's pseudo-relationship. If conservatives, already panicky about "young people" and how they'll vote, have no clue what's relevant to the very group they're wringing their hands about, it may prove rather difficult to relate to them, no? Perhaps this is a juicy rationalization I employ to justify watching the show, although point #1 is the only reason I really need.
Finally, the show generally reinforces traditionalist values. Bear with me here. Admittedly, when partisan snipes sneak into the script, they're usually aimed at Republicans. And yes, I'm aware that Keith Olbermann is a huge Soup
fan, which does give me pause. Nevertheless, the vast majority of The Soup's content features McHale flogging the entertainment industry for its gutter values. He repeatedly rips celebrities over their insufferable self-importance-a theme that conservatives can appreciate. (That McHale reserves a special brand of antipathy for Tyra Banks wins him extra points). He also blasts the depraved, over-sexed "stars" of reality shows who seem willing to jump into bed with whomever it takes just to extend their 15 minutes of fame by a few seconds. His frequent references to sexually transmitted diseases are always good for a chuckle, but they also subtly remind the audience of how disgusting promiscuity and its consequences can be. While many of these dreadful shows actually celebrate the ignorance of those who appear on them, McHale will have none of it; slapping down this type of foolishness with added gusto.
The implicit message behind the derision is that it really isn't
cool to be myopic, rude, slutty, or ignorant. The unseemly behavior glorified on these shows may buy someone a few weeks in the limelight, but will serve that person very poorly in the long term.
is certainly not for everyone. Its content and humor is often crass and may offend some people. It also may take a bit of time to grow on certain viewers. Not everyone will be instantly enamored with recurring segments such as "Chat Stew," "Let's Take Some E," or "Scenes from Home Shopping." Still, if your gut impulse is to ridicule, rather than to accept or even applaud, popular culture, you may find an unlikely ally in Joel McHale. There will be an extensive menu of television options this Friday night. May I recommend The Soup