The kitchen is closing. On Friday, the E! network will stop serving “The Soup,” a series that has spent nearly a quarter-century gently poking fun at the home-shopping hosts, reality-show bimbos and anyone else wading through TV’s shallowest waters.
The show may have been decidedly low-budget — the set made the basement in “Wayne’s World” seem like a Hollywood soundstage — but it helped launch the careers of Greg Kinnear, Aisha Tyler and a somewhat desperate Twin Cities-raised producer.
K.P. Anderson was licking his wounds from being fired by Bill Maher and running a humorless season of “Last Comic Standing” when then E! President Ted Herbert tapped him in 2004 to babysit a high-maintenance talent, at least until he could figure out a way to fire him. The petulant charge was Joel McHale, who would hold on to the show for a decade while establishing himself as a leading man (“Community”) and a bad boy you could take out in public (emcee of the 2014 White House Correspondents’ Dinner).
Anderson also fared well, shortening the name of the series, originally called “Talk Soup,” while expanding its list of targets, a strategy that led to spinoffs including “Sports Soup” and “Web Soup.”
Anderson took a break this month from polishing up his résumé to savor six of his favorite memories from his 11 years with the show.
Love at first sight (2004): “Ted Herbert called me and asked if I was interested in meeting this guy named Joel. ‘Great, funny guy, but a real pain,’ he said. ‘I’m probably going to cancel his show in 13 weeks. If you can keep him from coming into my office for the next 13 weeks, I’ll give you another job afterwards.’ When I met with Joel, he was in this insanely cluttered office, wearing gym clothes and rifling through tapes. Not that much different than it is now. I told him I thought the material was funny, but out of order. It was just missing a rudder. Joel later said I got the job because I was the only one who had watched the show.”
The greatest love of all (2005): “That was such an amazing time for us because we were throwing everything you could throw against the wall to get attention. Joel was influenced by Conan O’Brien, who would also do things out of the blue that were just plain weird. There was a clip from ‘Being Bobby Brown’ of Whitney Houston screaming that we used all year-round. We kept hitting it over and over again. We showed that we could be insanely stupid and attack pop culture from a more ridiculous level.”
Play, boy (2006): “One joke Joel and I always talk about came in an introduction to a clip from ‘The Girls Next Door.’ In it, Joel suggested that if you get tired of watching football on Sunday afternoon, you can switch over to E! and watch the girls next door pass around an old piece of leather. It upset Hugh Hefner so much I got a personal call from him. I got a chance to refuse to apologize. For a lot of years, the Kardashians complained, but I think it got to the point where it didn’t bother them anymore.”
Tom Tom Club (2007): “The piece I wrote in which Joel has an ‘exclusive’ interview with Tom Cruise and Katie after the birth of Suri will always be one of my favorites. Dominic DeLeo did a masterful Tom, and Kelly Andrews Levy was an impressive Katie. We shot it in my backyard with my wife playing the angry maid Consuela and my dog, Ziggy, as Suri. Tom is so weird and out of touch he thinks letting Ziggy lick peanut butter off a spoon is the same as breast-feeding.”
Matchmaker, matchmaker (2014): “In terms of white-hot, pop-culture notoriety, it would have to be a party at the Italian ambassador’s house — you know, the place I always hang out at when I’m in Washington. I was there because Joel was hosting the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and I didn’t know anyone but him. Then I saw Joe Manganiello, a really good guy. I gravitated toward him after I had had three Jack and Cokes. He was talking to Sofia Vergara, but I had no idea who she was. A couple weeks later, he was on ‘The Soup’ and he said that she had reached out to him later because she was curious about a guy who would turn away from her to talk to a drunk guy. (The two got married last month.) All my drunken behavior is designed to bring people together.”
Geeking out (2015): “We had Paul Feig on the show a few times. That was huge for us. I’m a big fan of his series ‘Freaks and Geeks.’ I was introducing my 12-year-old daughter to the show on DVD the other night and Paul was expressing outrage on Twitter about ‘Soup’ getting canceled. I was sitting there thinking, ‘Wow! The guy who created this great sitcom is more upset about this than I am.’ ”