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.