It is the end of an era for basic cable comedy, as E!’s The Soup franchise is getting set to mix up its last meaty batch of “Chat Stew” and ride off into the sunset this December. Now primarily dedicated to making fun of D-list celebrities and marveling over just how ridiculous the TV landscape has become since the rise of reality TV, The Soup has existed in its current form since actor and comedian Joel McHale took over as host in summer 2004.
As if McHale’s decade-plus hosting run wasn’t impressive enough, one can’t forget that The Soup served as a spiritual successor to long-running E! series Talk Soup — which was initially headlined by Academy Award-nominated actor Greg Kinnear, and followed by the likes of John Henson, Hal Sparks, and Aisha Tyler — meaning that the overall enterprise has existed in some form for over 20 years.
News of The Soup’s impending end came earlier today, along with this statement from E! programming exec Jeff Olde:
“We are incredibly proud of the long-running success of The Soup. [The show] has delivered countless laughs and unforgettable episodes, and we are grateful to the talented team’s fearless wit and clever approach week after week. Joel took the show to new heights for more than a decade, and his irreverent humor and unique brand of comedy as captured so perfectly on The Soup will be missed.”
For his part, McHale himself had this to add:
“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,” McHale said. “Thanks to all who watched and thanks to Kim Kardashian’s ass for all that it’s done for me and my family.”
Judging by the tone of the above statements, it would appear likely that bringing The Soup to a close was a mutual decision agreed to by both the network and McHale, or at least one to which the latter didn’t actively object. McHale has often joked in recent times about how he’s begun to rival Ryan Seacrest in the number of jobs he’s been juggling at any given time, having spent every year since 2009 playing the lead in Community while also hosting The Soup and continuing to perform stand-up dates. He’s also squeezed in a few film roles here and there, and has already filmed a recurring part on the upcoming revival of The X-Files. In short, McHale is a man in demand, and leaving The Soup will surely enable him to explore much more varied acting opportunities.
That all said, don’t let E!’s super positive statement above fool you. The network’s relationship with McHale’s has not always been sunshine and roses, with the host actually openly discussing all the reprimands he’s received over his formerly endless jokes about the Kardashian family during his stand-up act and occasionally on The Soup itself. The fact that The Soup exists to lampoon bad TV and inane celebrity news has always made it a bit of an outsider on its own station, as rarely does a show — outside of a juggernaut like The Simpsons — get to lay the verbal smackdown on its own employer as often as The Soup did under McHale’s leadership.
Despite those conflicts, it’s easy to see why E! kept The Soup alive as long as it did. The series’ ratings have remained consistent through multiple jumps around the schedule, and its audience is perhaps the most loyal in network history. In turn, McHale has successfully used his Soup notoriety as a launching pad for bigger and better things, and often as free publicity for the sometimes struggling Community. Things really did turn out well for all involved, outside of those who’ll now miss their weekly dose of McHale’s biting quips about home shopping and people who somehow didn’t know they were pregnant.
The Soup airs its series finale on Friday, December 18th at 10pm on E!.
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