Aug. 20--To Joel McHale, revenge is not a dish best served cold, but one dealt out weekly with a healthy ladle of percolating "Soup."
For nearly a decade, the 41-year-old comedian -- armed with little more than a green screen, a video monitor and a boyishly wicked smile -- has been delivering his brand of payback on E!'s "The Soup" against "Jersey Shore," "The Bachelor" franchise, all things Kardashian, and a host of other outrageous reality programs.
The series, known as "Talk Soup" before McHale took over in 2004, has become one of the most durable comedy vehicles for the cable network, the home of the Kim Kardashian TV empire and Chelsea Handler's late-night talk show. The program, which showcases McHale's sharp wit and charm, helped catapult him into a lead role on NBC's cult-favorite sitcom "Community" and roles in films such as Seth MacFarlane's "Ted."
Wednesday marks an impressive milestone for "The Soup" when the show, which pulls in a weekly average audience of about 1 million, will air its 500th episode. The quincentenary will be broadcast live -- twice, one time for the East Coast and another for the West Coast. (The show will air locally at 10 p.m.)
"There's a real sense of danger for this one," McHale said while stretching out in a back room at E!'s offices on Wilshire Boulevard's Miracle Mile. "I mean, we're actually going to rehearse."
The live performances are indeed a departure for McHale and crew. Although it is tightly scripted, the actual production inside its small studio is a loose, no-frills affair played out in front of a small but loudly exuberant audience. McHale and his guests, who have ranged from female wrestlers on E!'s "Total Divas" to NBC News anchor Brian Williams, pointedly read their lines from a teleprompter. (McHale also said his dyslexia may make the proceedings for the 500th show "interesting, to say the least.")
Although special guests usually pop in for each broadcast, the commemoration will be mostly business as usual. McHale, who has never left his "day job" at "The Soup" despite an increasingly busy career, will comment on a variety of clips from other shows. His current favorite targets are ABC's reality-murder mystery "Whodunit" ("where contestants are fake-murdered and the other contestants have to be fake-scared ... while audiences have to pretend to be brain dead to enjoy it") and Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, who McHale maintains appears to be obsessed with the HBO vampire series "True Blood."
McHale may also reflect on some of his most memorable moments. "One that stands out for me is handing [former bisexual dating show star] Tila Tequila an award for entertainer of the year with a pair of tongs while wearing a hazmat suit."
Six writers and 11 others on the production staff scour the airwaves looking for appropriately shocking clips to feature on the show. One reason for the show's longevity, said executive producer K.P. Anderson, is its deliberately low production values. "We're so incredibly cheap they don't drop us."
Even though the show skewers reality stars and other celebrities, McHale delivers his lines good-naturedly without flavoring the barbs with snark or nastiness. And he has earned goodwill from past victims. In fact, instead of ducking "The Soup," "every single reality star I've ever met has wanted to be on," said McHale.
He even has a warm spot in his heart for the Kardashian clan, though fans of "The Soup" may not be able to tell from the show's almost routine skewering of the family. Kris Jenner used to complain to then-network head Ted Harbert about some of the barbs: "She really didn't like me bringing up that Kim had a sex tape."
But he added, "The secret weapon of the Kardashians is that they're very nice people. And they are not dumb."
Apparently, he said, the family is not as sensitive anymore: "I think after they made their first billion, they stopped caring."
Although previous hosts of the franchise, such as Greg Kinnear and Aisha Tyler, left when their careers took off, McHale -- who is also about to go into production on what is expected to be the last season of "Community" -- has no plans to exit.
"I have a 50-year plan -- not going anywhere," he said with a smile. "It's too much fun."
When: 10 p.m. Wednesday
Rating: TV-14-DL (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for suggestive dialogue and coarse language)
(c)2013 the Los Angeles Times
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OCTOBER 31, 2014
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