Joel McHale is back! The comedic actor of Community fame now streams a weekly show on Netflix with a title that is in no way self-aggrandizing. The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale airs every Sunday.
The show is essentially McHale’s old show, The Soup, revamped and on a new platform. McHale’s personality and biting sense of humor remind us why the E! show ran for 11 years. Even a few hints to his time at the network bring some levity to the similar format.
The show consists of McHale in front of a green screen and a small audience. He introduces a topic or show, cracks a few jokes, then plays a clip. Often, the footage of garbage television and reality shows could stand on their own as funny, but McHale always finds a unique angle, especially when he peppers in references to the previous clips throughout the show.
Netflix reportedly ordered the series for 13 episodes, and while the show has begun to demonstrate its worth, it’s still finding its legs. Some of the writing is weak and relies on McHale to break or crack jokes about the its quality. He is the show’s saving grace — he simultaneously commits 100 percent and has a gleam in his eye, indicating he understands a joke’s success or failure.
But some bits cannot be saved. For starters, executive producer Paul Feig appears in practically every episode with some sort of bit referencing a humorous clip. And each time, it is excruciatingly, painfully unfunny. Feig has a definite sense for humor, showcased by his work on both The Office and Bridesmaids, But he needs to step back and maintain a role behind the camera. His on-camera antics are just unsettling and ruin the flow of the show.
That said, celebrity guests do often add to each episode. The likes of Billy Eichner, Timothy Olyphant, Drew Barrymore, Seth Green, Kevin Hart, Gabriel Iglesias and Jason Priestley have made appearances on the broadcast, and all of them earn laughs. The best part of their presence is a refreshing departure from the normal talk-show format of promoting a film or show, to simple/sketch comedy. At the end of many episodes, McHale thanks the guests and asks “So, are you promoting anything?”
The funniest running joke, which is made in each show, is a reference to Netflix itself. Each time somebody says the title of the streaming service, the iconic double-tap theme plays. Somehow, despite making the joke each episode — often more than once — each time it’s funnier than the last. Other humorous recurring jokes include a sports section sponsored by products, such as “cars,” or an international segment, consisting of a theme of bagpipes and didgeridoos played at the same time.
Some bits fall flat; others kill. While McHale frequently carries the show on his back, the kinks still need to be worked out. With improved writing, continued quality guest appearances and a few changes to the format, it’s easy to imagine the show becoming a Netflix mainstay.