Friday, May 8, 2009

An Open Letter To TPTB At E!...

Dear Flashy Suits and Corporate Monkeys:

I understand that economic times are tough and that even before they fell into the abyss you guys had a hard time justifying paying for things like worker's comp and oh I don't know, snacks. I understand that you much prefer the "clip show" type of production, in which all of your time and energy and manpower (read: interns) go into getting clearance for certain footage that some other production team creatively...well, created. I don't even fault you that because it has given me some of the most entertaining blocks of television time in a long time (aside from the trainwreck that has become VH1, that is). You must know that The Soup leads the pack here! The trashtastic footage you manage to get your grubby little paws on combined with the sheer magnetism of host Joel McHale's raw opinion-comedy causes laugh out loud groans and giggles in countless living rooms and harshly lit cubicles across the country. And just how do you repay McHale and Co? Well...you don't!

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a taping of The Soup (with special guest star Bob Saget!). Now, I come from a talk/clip show background, as you would know if you stayed abreast of this blog (and sometimes it seems like you might because I have leaked info and offered commentary on here that I have seen later crop up on some of your beloved clip shows, but if you take my advice now, I won't sue you for plagiarism later!), but I fully understand that not every network show can have what the powerhouse of Ellen Degeneres or even Ryan Seacrest has (or in his case, had). I spent three long and tiresome years at USC, earning a degree that gives me the right to call myself an authority on all the things I write about today, and while I was there I also worked for their campus television station, Trojan Vision. Now Trojan Vision may be pretty cool for a campus TV station, but when it comes to the rest of the networks to be found in Los Angeles, it is the lowest of the low. The movie review program I wrote, produced, and directed literally had no budget, and the general manager didn't even want to approve a reimbursement for a few cans of paint so we could paint the set walls between seasons. Needless to say, there were no frills (worker's comp, snacks, or otherwise) at Trojan Vision!

But I believe that is to be expected. After all, we were just kids, and the school was really more about film than it was TV, so we were not surprised to fall by the wayside of importance on the Dean's radar. I was, however, shocked and somewhat appalled to walk into the set of The Soup and find that it looked exactly like Trojan Vision!

I knew the show was just Joel on a mark reading from a teleprompter. I knew there was a simple green screen set up behind him and only one camera. I knew all clips were rolled in through VTRs from a booth and the show was not live, so he would go back and redo things when he felt the need. I did not have any preparation for the fact that the "audience" would simply be some Ikea wooden chairs (though I guess that's a bit more permanent than folding chairs?) and that his set shared the same space with the much more elaborate E! News Live set. Screw Seacrest; I moved his mark and came really close to leaving my gum on the set (partially just to see how long it would take someone to notice). I had no idea that E! treated The Soup like the red-headed step-child of the network!

I was shocked and somewhat appalled by this because The Soup is hands down the best program on E! (it and Chelsea Lately are the only two shows that salvage the network, in my eyes), and this is how it gets treated?? McHale deserves so much better! Hell, the fans deserve so much better! It is quite obvious that those Ikea chairs have doubled since the show started, due to the popularity of the host and the content, and it's time for E! to recognize and reward that! Give him a real studio, for f---'s sake! This is a man who's network comedy just got picked up, and yet he's not giving up his "day job." Show him a little gratitude; throw him a bone; hell work a little harder to get the rights to "Movin' On Up" for the moment he makes his big NBC announcement on air! Treat him like a respected employee instead of someone who is as expendable as those twenty year old interns you rotate like clockwork every new semester! I am so sick of corporations letting it be known how expendable everyone is (but maybe that is really a whole other gripe that I will only be free to express fully once my own network show gets picked up)!

Other than that, though, the taping was a blast, and I don't want to give any spoilers away since the episode will air tonight, but the Star Trek/N.Y. Goes To Work mash-up was the most classic thing I've seen in a long time and my favorite quote from this week's Make Me A Supermodel made the cut (and no, it had nothing to do with Branden's shaving incident!). I got to meet and chat briefly with McHale after the taping (he called me a spinster, and I told him I was attending his stand-up at the Wiltern on June 6-- and y'all should, too; he's awesome!), and I would post my picture here except I look a bit "special" in it.

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