Before Joel McHale starred as Jeff Winger on the much-beloved Community, he became a household name as the host of The Soup, the E! series where he would give us grade-A snark about the latest round of reality TV schlock. McHale’s wit spared no one, and the show familiarized itself with audiences with recurring segments like “Chicks, Man,” or “Let’s Take Some E!” McHale became a bigger star with Community, but The Soup had loyal fans right up until its cancellation in 2015. That’s why it made sense that Netflix would seize the opportunity to fill the Soup-sized hole in our hearts. The result is The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale, a show that doesn’t take too many chances (it’s basically a longer, more curse word-friendly version of The Soup), but it doesn’t need to, because it’s just too damn funny.
In the opening segment of the series, Kevin Hart shows up for an amusing bit where McHale wakes up from a dream stunned to find out he’s been given a new show. The fact that it’s so similar to its predecessor is lightly mocked when McHale goes right back into his stance in front of the green screen as though the old show is simply continuing on from its December 2015 finale. Sure enough, he goes into mocking some suitably absurd clips from Love & Hip Hop: New York and Ultimate Beastmaster, and it’s like he never left.
The show’s most enjoyable segment is McHale’s tour of the Netflix studios, which gives him a chance to briefly leave his comfort zone. We get a partial Community reunion when Alison Brie and Jim Rash show up at a coffee stand within the building. This works because Rash gets to revive the glorious awkwardness that made Dean Pelton one of that show’s funniest characters. Elsewhere, he goes into the Upside Down and has an interaction with Paul Reiser. Considering the massive popularity of Stranger Things, it pretty much had to be referenced in some capacity. At any rate, this bit did a nice job of breaking up the repetition of McHale simply playing clip after clip. It would be nice to see the show film more segments like that, making it seem more like its own entity and less like a straight-up continuation of The Soup.
McHale gives the spotlight to international shows on “Joel’s International Corner,” where we see multiple clips from a bizarre Korean drama that features people getting run over multiple times. While reality show drama clips often lead to McHale’s best one-liners, it’s nice to see him focus on some of the more avant-garde programs that exist around the world. The Netflix runtime allows The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale to be about five minutes longer than The Soup, and if that extra time allows McHale to fit in some extra experimentation, the show will likely be better for it.
If you wanted to see McHale take things in a new direction, you will likely be disappointed, because this show has the same basic structure as The Soup. That being said, that format still holds up quite well, and the show has enough innovations to differentiate itself from its predecessor. Particularly enjoyable was the closing credits, written by comedian and Twitter favorite Eli Braden, which comment on how superfluous closing credit themes are on Netflix, because everyone just skips ahead to the next show (although, for the record, those people are missing on the greatness of the BoJack Horseman closing theme). Anyone who longed for The Soup should love The Joel McHale with Joel McHale. The Netflix format means F-bombs are okay, and he has five more minutes to play whatever out-there clips his staff finds on any given week. What more could you ask for?
Photo by Greg Gayne/Netflix.