Dec 30 2012

Lake NeuronLake Neuron: Pop culture showdown

Original post at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/LakeNeuron/~3/177-LjNKVqA/

From 2004 through 2009, there were two competing weekly shows mocking the latest in popular culture: “The Soup,” on E!, and “Best Week Ever,” on VH1.

“The Soup,” hosted by Joel McHale, is still on the air. It’s a somewhat-altered version of a previous E! series, “Talk Soup,” which helped launch the careers of Greg Kinnear and Aisha Tyler, among others. “Talk Soup” focused on making fun of daytime talk shows but eventually expanded its reach to include reality TV and other topics. It was cancelled and left the air for a while. When “The Soup” premiered, expanding the net further to include celebrity news and all sorts of TV, it was called by another name (“The ‘What The…?’ Awards”) for its first episode or two until someone had the brilliant idea to tie it in with its predecessor. That name change happened before I started watching, but I became a fan soon afterward.

“Best Week Ever” was obviously fashioned after VH1’s popular series of specials, “I Love The 80s,” “I Love the 70s,” “I Love the 90s” and so on. Like “The Soup,” it made fun of the previous week’s celebrity culture, TV clips and other pop culture touchstones. Originally, it used the “I Love The…” format, with a voiceover announcer but no central host, simply cutting back and forth among members a regular pool of comics, each recorded separately, reacting to a clip or story. In 2008, however, it went to a single-host format, becoming “Best Week Ever with Paul F. Tompkins.”

I didn’t like the single-host format, which at that point was a pretty blatant and not very successful attempt to imitate “The Soup.” (It should be noted that “The Soup”’s producers and parent company Comcast have also imitated themselves frequently, creating niche spinoffs “The Dish,” “Web Soup” and “Sports Soup,” all of them now out of production.) The Tompkins-hosted version of “Best Week Ever” lasted about a year, going on hiatus in 2009 and being formally cancelled in 2010.

I should also point out that even though I didn’t like him compared to McHale, I really enjoy one of Tompkins’ other projects, The Dead Authors Podcast, which he hosts in character as H.G. Wells.

Anyway, VH1 is now running promos for a revived version of “Best Week Ever,” to premiere in mid-January. Judging from the promos, which feature a variety of (unfamiliar) comics but no Tompkins, the show is returning to its original multi-host format.

In the old days, both shows ran on Friday night, sometimes in the same time slot, sometimes separated by an hour. “The Soup” moved to Wednesdays a while back, but “Best Week Ever” will once again air on Fridays. If the new version is well-done, there’s certainly room for both shows.

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