Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Soup: Mmm-Mmm Good

I first started watching Talk Soup on E! back in the early 90s when the host was a charming young man named Greg Kinnear.  The show had a very basic premise: present clips of daytime talk shows and make fun of them.  At that time, the number of such shows was insane.  We had Oprah and Jerry Springer, but also Sally Jesse Raphael, Donohue, Jenny Jones, Ricki Lake, and a host of forgotten classics like Leeza and Vicki.  These shows had not yet descended into a series of on-stage fights and paternity tests, but they were indeed ridiculous and the public needed a place to come to watch these shows be ridiculed.

Talk Soup was so simple it was brilliant.  It had no set.  The host sat in front of a green screen and made funny comments between clips.  That's it.  There was no audience.  The laughter heard during each episode came not from a studio audience, but from the five or six crew members behind the camera.  The obvious lack of budget was the subject of a constant stream of self-deprecating jokes.  Talk Soup had an amateurish feel that could have been problematic, but here was turned into an asset.  Watching the show was kind of like going over to a friends house to watch TV.  And then in 1995, Greg Kinnear left.

I naturally thought this was the end of Talk Soup.  Greg Kinnear was front and center for every episode and his likability was key to the show's success.  I certainly was tempted to write the show off.  Yet, the producers opted to push forward with a no-name comedian with a white spot of hair on the side of his head named John Henson in the host's chair.  Against my better judgment, I watched the first few episodes of the new Talk Soup and was surprised that Henson was actually pretty funny.  So, I kept watching.  By the time Henson had a year under his belt, it had become clear that Henson was funnier than Kinnear and Talk Soup had reached new heights.

Flash forward to 2004.  Daytime talk shows were no longer popular.  Henson's reign on Talk Soup had ended and his replacements of Hal Sparks and Aisha Tyler (followed by a series of "celebrity" guest hosts) could not keep up the momentum.  Once again, it looked like the show was D.O.A.  I had stopped watching years prior and assumed that Talk Soup was no more, but I happened to be flipping channels and came across a show on E! called simply The Soup.  Right away, it was clear that the old Talk Soup I knew and loved had been reincarnated once again.  Freakishly-tall Joel McHale was the best host yet.  The idea of using reality TV and entertainment shows in addition to daytime television breathed new life into the format and made the show more outrageous and hilarious than ever before.  Now, six years later, The Soup is still one of the best comedies on TV.  One day, Joel McHale will move on and I for one will remember this time to give the producers the benefit of the doubt when they hire someone new.


  1. the fact that you reference "vicki" - makes me unbelievably happy. my sister and i rarely missed an episode. oh vicki. i miss you on daytime tv. so much.

  2. I honestly only knew that show from Talk Soup - the one I miss is Sally Jesse. My mom would watch that one all the time and it was classier than the other shows.

  3. Is Joel McHale the guy on Community? Also, your blog is awesome.

  4. Thanks Seth and Marie! Yes, Joel McHale is on Community and I actually have a blog post coming up with thoughts on that show. Stay tuned...