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Friday, October 23, 1998
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 44

About the Cougar

Talk Soup: Must E! TV 

E! Entertainment Television the créme de la créme of networks 

By Kristin Long
Michigan Daily (U. Michigan) 

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (U-WIRE) -- There's this great little network out there that makes variety television worth its air time. It's called E! Entertainment Television, and it's one of the greatest gifts to TV ever created.

A couple of weeks ago, I caught the last half of E! Behind the Scenes: Regis and Kathie Lee. Now normally, I don't have the opportunity to watch Regis and Kathie Lee on a regular basis, let alone get the skinny on the show, so when E! took me (and others, I guess) behind the scenes, it was a blessing in the form of an electronic box. Granted, it was on a Friday night, but it was early, I swear.

Let's just say I can be easily amused, and with this in mind, it is simple to understand my interest in and fascination with what, to some, may seem like mindless, fluffy babble. I suppose this is a characteristic that helps in my appreciation of E!, but let's simplify our minds for a moment.

Behind the Scenes is one of the brighter aspects of E! Along with it, though, are such fine programs such as E! News Daily -- if Kmetko isn't a cool last name for Steve, the anchor, I don't know what is -- and Coming Attractions.

Granted, the latest additions of the programs Fashion Emergency and Mysteries and Scandals spread the network's programming a little thin. Even the Gossip Show tends to border on the lame side. But for the sake of being positive, I won't dwell on the negative.

In the overall scheme of things, though, two words capture the breath-taking essence of this network. Two words make it all it can be, and then some. Two words, very simple: Talk Soup.

I don't know who thought of this fine masterpiece of television, but it is exactly what variety TV should be.

There's humor, dialogue and sarcasm -- and the silence can be equally as funny as the words alone.

At first, when Greg Kinnear was in the control seat, I thought there could be little improvement to the show and its presentation. His sarcasm and wit were the créme de la créme of humor. His acknowledgment of the absurdity of talk-show guests and hosts could even make me feel slightly normal, and this, I assure you, is a major bonus. My mom and I reveled in the nightly show, and it became a ritual. Maybe it was one of those bonding moments.

But then, Kinnear started on the whole late-night television bit, and also tried his hand at becoming a leading silver-screen comic. I was slightly distraught. It was clear he had potential to excel on his own, but I didn't want to watch the show any more without him. I thought there could never be another host as funny.

But then I finally got a grip, and hello -- there was John Henson.

Henson and his sometimes juvenile, yet almost always witty, humor makes me want to watch E! 24-7. (Well, not really, but if it gets my point across, then it was worth writing it.)

Even with his little skunk mark in his seemingly all-brown hair helmet, this man makes me laugh, and for that he deserves credit. 

It's not that my life is so pathetic that I wait for Talk Soup to air every day, but for some reason, whenever I take a break from studying or working on some energy-consuming project, it always seems to be on.

It's like it's fate or destiny.

Perhaps it means nothing at all, but I'll work with it.

Henson wraps up the best of all topics within the talk-show world, thus saving me from wasting my time on the trash that frequently is featured on The Jerry Springer Show or some other melodrama of the sort.

As if we didn't know that most of the people on that show don't really exist in this world. If they do, is it really necessary to waste precious TV time to watch them? No, except for the fact that it gives Henson and Talk Soup something great to poke fun at.

Not only doe Henson and his gang capture the best moments from Springer and Sally, among others, but his little side comments make it pure entertainment. The folks who come on those shows lack attention, and if they get a two-minute spot on Talk Soup then it's perfectly acceptable for Henson to raise his brow at them or take their absurdity to a new level. It's all in good fun, and it's all about normality, or lack thereof.

But it's not just the trash about which Henson jokes that makes the show worth watching. Because I am one of those crazy fools who tries to go to bed sometime before dawn, I miss Conan O'Brien, one of the finest late-night shows available. Thankfully, Talk Soup fills me in on what I missed, and I don't feel so out of the Conan loop.

Talk Soup deserves to be commended because it takes the topics of daytime talk shows, with people who think their lives are either so normal they're crazy or so crazy they'd be a waste not to be on TV, and shows us how so many of the things us "normal" folks worry ourselves with are trite.

In the overall scheme of things, this world is full of crazy mayhem and unbelievable stress. Many of us are forgetting to laugh at what others feel are the simplest and least worrisome things in life. 

If it takes this one show, for a half an hour a day and an hour on weekends, to relieve just that small iota of stress, then it is worth all the praise in the world.

Henson makes me laugh, and I'm positive I'm not alone. I am not even sure why I find him so humorous, but set me in front of a television with Henson and Talk Soup on, and I could be amused for hours. Perhaps this is because the show makes me feel normal, or because his sarcasm just tickles my funny bone to the ultimate extreme. 

Regardless, it's pure fun, and that's the best support of it I could ever give.


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