Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Bastard Sons Of Joel McHale: Arturo vs. Tosh.0 & Web Soup!

Joel McHale is to TalkThe Soup what David Tennant is to Doctor Who: maybe not the very best star the show's ever had – Greg Kinnear started somewhere, remember? -- but certainly the guy who's made it a hot commodity.

Naturally, this means the copycats are now out in full force. First there was Sports Soup on Versus. This week saw two different web variants on the Soup formula in G4's Web Soup (produced by the folks behind McHale's show) and Comedy Central's Tosh.0. Both follow the basic formula: skinny white guy (Aisha Tyler, I guess, was the exception proving the rule) narrating various pratfalls, this time spotlighting the hapless Internauts unwittingly running for a Darwin Award.

In a case like this, it's up to the hosts to provide that little bit of difference that will make one of these shows watchable and the other a bad idea. And this is where Tosh is the decidedly better show.

Soup host Chris Hardwick inadvertently undermined himself during a brief cameo by McHale during Web's debut, when he defensively cried, "I hosted Singled Out!" during a mock rant by Joel. And that's the biggest problem - that show is more than a decade old. Citing a lengthy career works for Oscar winners; not so much for clip-show hosts.

And even during his Singled days, Hardwick wasn't the lead; it was always more about spotlighting a young, hot (if unfunny) Jenny McCarthy, who's managed to redefine herself as a reliable guest-star and more importantly, a caring mother and activist. Hardwick, though, still comes off like ... well, the Chris Hardwick of more than 10 years ago. Hardwick can be funny in his own right, but, perhaps by design, the Soup producers seemed determined to strip him not only of the ferocity McHale gets to show off, but of his own gift for snark. The awkward act we get in exchange isn't likely to keep peoples' attention between the clips.

By comparison, Tosh host Daniel Tosh, while projecting a relaxed vibe, doesn't lose the viewer. And his show offers the most unique feature on either program: “Web Redemption,” a visit, seemingly played straight-up for now, with the “star” of a random viral meme. In the opener, Tosh interviewed the guy known as the Afro Ninja, and rather than settle for the cheap joke, we got to see the guy and his family. Even Tosh got into the act, busting out a backflip of his own. If “Redemption” continues to engage these would-be micro-celebrities as people, we might get a welcome injection of heart into a TV formula that's already in danger of getting stale.


Jason said...

I saw that Afro-Ninja segment was rather entertained. I'm also inclined to wonder if the original Afro-ninja failed back-flip was staged, cuz if the guy in it was a professional stunt-man, he'd know how to do it without really hurting himself. If it was staged, than even more props to Mr. Stunt Man cuz I was fooled into thinking that was real for years.

Anonymous said...

It's in DANGER of getting stale these shows already ARE stale! And do we r-e-a-l-l-y need yet another snarky,stupid,smug,too-smart-alecky-for-his-own-good white guy host of these goofy crapfest. Whose only purpose in life is to see how much of a big putz he can be and trying to appeal to 24 year-old frat boys while HE himself is well past frat boy age. Like a David Letterman in training can you say 'dumb and dumbmer' boys and girls?! Same shit different whiny pissant and has anyone else besides me noticed that MOST of their targeted 'celebrities' are African-American?!!

Anonymous said...

And kudos for what you said on Racialicious and this may be off topic but it REALLY kills me how people especially little snots in the media want to be all 'polly and peter pureheart' about so-called 'misogyny' and 'degrading women' in rap but let shit like this dumb movie and countless others go without ANY criticism WTF?!! If you ain't gonna attack all of it then don't attack any of it hypocrites!