After 22 seasons, E! is finally saying goodbye to The Soup—a weekly pop culture clip show rooted in satire and sarcasm, hailed by fans and critics alike as one of the most hilarious and cleverest programs the network has ever seen. Okay, so maybe the critics never really said much because they’re all pandering to the drama of the socialites and superficial programming—but it was a fantastic show.
As a true staple on E! for more than two decades and after Joel McHale took the reins and reformatted its predecessor, Talk Soup in 2004 with the help of a fantastic group of writers and producers, simply put, The Soup was ‘broth-taking.’
Nope. Won’t be punning again…
In a two–part tweet from McHale last month, the comedian and actor expressed his gratitude to the E! network, saying, “I loved doing The Soup for all of these years—86 to be exact—but am excited to solely focus on my acting career now—soft core. Thanks to all who watched, and thanks to Kim Kardashian’s ass for all that it’s done for me and my family.”
Prior to the announcement, McHale had signed an extension deal in the fall of 2014, which kept the comedian hosting the show through 2016. While everyone is unclear as to the real reason for the show’s abrupt cancellation, it does make some wonder of E!’s intentions with smart commentary shows like The Soup or McHale’s social media-inspired commentary show, The Comment Section (hosted by Michael Kosta) that not only challenged the superficiality of modern television, but poked fun at the network’s biggest revenue model—the Kardashians. If such is the case, it’s a really glittery and modern version of McCarthyism, right? But that’s probably not it because not everything is something else. But with E! as a network part of the NBC Universal conglomerate, it seems the world’s leading media entertainment company isn’t entirely done with the idea of The Soup.
This past September, NBC Universal’s latest venture, Crazy Talk, a boring and sloppy version of The Soup premiered. The show, now in syndication across the country puts a “comedic” spin on the highlights from conflict talk shows in front of a studio audience that actually feels like one ripped from the chairs of Jerry Springer. While the show is no where near the hilarity and comedic genius of The Soup nor boasts the charm of its host like McHale, it is an effort nonetheless that begs the question for many fans: What in the world really happened?
While we can’t all speculate with panache and glistening white crowned teeth like E! News correspondents can, it is evident and factual that the show will be sorely missed. As TV began to swell up in recent years thanks to unscripted reality shows bordering ridiculous and inane like My 600 Pound Life or Sex Sent Me to the ER, The Soup really flourished as a beacon of hilarity, rounding up the week’s most stand-out and awkward moments in pop culture. With each passing year, TV and its growing love for reality programming made the show ever more relevant, bursting each week with content and commentary that ensued giant LOLs. As a smart and clever oasis amid a dry desert of programming, The Soup was watched all over the world thanks to E!’s international networks. With fans from the Middle East to South America, to Australia and Japan, it reached overseas and beyond, making the show and its host a welcomed guest into so many homes.
Debuting as Talk Soup in 1991, the E! production launched the careers of Greg Kinnear, John Henson, Hal Sparks and Aisha Tyler. When McHale began his hosting duties in 2004 and rebranded the show after a brief nap, the then 33 year-old was relatively new to the scene with just a few acting credits under his belt. Since hosting for E!, the comedian went on to an array of television and film credits.
Featuring host McHale for 11 years against a green-screened set with a graphic to his right, commenting on pop culture clips that were nothing short of screwball oddities, the weekly show was broken up into various segments focusing on themes like “Chat Stew,” “Reality Show Clip Time,” or “Tales from Home Shopping.” From quick-witted writing and sharp humor, The Soup was nominated for an Emmy in the “Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program” last year. Though they didn’t win, it didn’t stop the show from continuing their comical hi-jinks, while welcoming a slew of continued guest stars and comedians from the entertainment industry.
Airing more than 3,000 episodes to date in front of a studio audience, this Friday’s one-hour finale (airing the same night of the new Star Wars film release—how can you forget?!) will have fans bidding farewell to the writers, crew and our favorite characters like Mankini, Jewbacca, Spaghetti Cat and Lou the Chihuahua. And while the show is scripted, a large portion of it is ad-libbed. With that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see how it all goes down this week as everyone says farewell.
As the years go by and our culture reaches a saturation point thanks to the earning model that E! bases its innovative programming on, we will regret losing such clever quips that McHale and the team behind The Soup would have come up with. Acting as our conscious, the show was seriously the best and spoke up for what we were always thinking. And as we reach the end of an era, we are forced to look elsewhere for similar comedy or even another figure like McHale, brave enough to mock the absurdity of reality TV on a weekly basis.
At this point in our lives, the world needs more comedy and to strip that away at a time we need it the most, feels rather hapless. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is, while some will attempt similar ideas through refreshed TV concepts or podcasts, no one does it quite like McHale and his team behind The Soup.
Despite the show’s finale and McHale’s failed contract venture, The Comment Section (which was cancelled shortly after), there is still plenty on the horizon for the 44 year-old comedian. Taking his comedy on the road, fans of McHale can see him appear next in an arc on the rebooted version of The X-Files as conservative news anchor, Tad O’Malley. The reboot is set to premiere on FOX, January 24.
Fare thee well, The Soup. While devoted fans, like myself, “stew” over this news, it was evident and true that you were a “souper” part of our weeknights for the last 11 years. To the writers, crew, and McHale, thank you for the laughs. We will miss you long time.