‘The Soup’ is Irreplaceable

When favorite TV series end, the most fervid fans often ask themselves this question: “What other show can I latch onto to fill this void?”

We’re in the Golden Age of television, so even though cultural phenomena like Mad Men ended this year, there’s surely another great drama just around the corner (or already on television, Hulu, Netflix, whatever).

The same cannot be said for E!’s The Soup. When the network revealed in late November that they would not be bringing back Joel McHale and company for episodes in 2016, I asked myself what show I could watch to supplement my weekly dose of reality television and snark, and nothing came to mind.

Sure, there have been copycats (remember Danielle Fishel on Style Network’s The Dish or Chris Hardwick on Web Soup?), but none of these shows lasted because they deviated from what was most crucial to the success of The Soup: biting commentary on the ridiculousness of television. For even though we are in the Golden Age of TV, we also live in an age where Keeping Up with the Kardashians has aired more episodes than critical darlings like 30 Rock (150 to 138).

In many ways, The Soup was a part of the checks-and-balances of the TV world. The networks were the “lawmakers,” or the ones that would greenlight crap like Bad Girls’ Club and Wives with Knives, while The Soup was part of the judicial branch, the people to shake our shoulders and remind us that we had just watched a two-hour block of shows about storage units.

While reality television isn’t as potent as it was 10 or 15 years ago, when Survivor dominated the ratings, it’s more superfluous now. If you do have cable, you can’t change the channel without coming across some sort of reality programming, and The Soup crawled these channels for the worst (Finding Bigfoot), the so-sexually-suggestive-you-can’t-look-away (Gold Rush Alaska), and the blink-and-you-miss-it moments (Spaghetti Cat?).

Tosh.0 may be the closest thing to filling the void, but it doesn’t have the heart of The Soup. After all, when The Soup was supposed to air the night of the Paris terrorist attack, they canceled. In 2008, when Heath Ledger died, they told the paparazzi to leave him and his family alone. For as much poking and prodding as they did to celebrities, they also were respectful of reality.

The Soup was also the one show on E! to keep the network legitimate and real. If you’ve ever caught E! News, you know that it really should be called Kardashian News or Why is this News?. The Soup was the one show that never pandered to the aura of celebrity. Now, without this show on the network, E! has officially cultivated a world of vapid men and women and botched plastic surgery. There’s no counterbalance. Even Chelsea Handler is gone.

I suppose that The Soup was going to end soon anyway, especially since most people don’t have cable anymore, and if you don’t have cable, you’re not able to know these reality TV references or even watch the damn program on E!. So maybe the end of The Soup is the end of an era.

Unfortunately, we’ll still be overrun by unnecessary reality shows. We just won’t have anyone to dish with about it.

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