When a television series is brought back from an extended hiatus, generally it can never truly capture the essence of what made the original so captivating or unique. It either lacks the spirit that drew in audiences in the first place or is trying so hard to recapture fans that it only pushes people away.
With ‘The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale’, thankfully it comes the closest to capturing the spirit of the original show. The first season, which culminated with the second part of the first season released last week.
For those not familiar with the show, it features Joel McHale commentating over reality television, pop culture and more in front of a green screen. With the Netflix reboot they did not overstep their bounds, instead opting for the same focus on the writing that made the original remarkable.
The rebooted show feels like they took the extra budget and updated the style to fit the modern times. There’s more focus on international television, sports, and the Internet than before, but it comfortably fits into the show’s format. From segments like Shopping for Shut-ins and The Wonderful World of Weird Guys, each one as the show progresses gets better and better.
The show also breaks a lot of the usual format when it comes to releasing Netflix content, with the first part of episodes being released week by week. This was a fine aid to the show, as it was better served in a small amount every week. For a show whose entire premise revolves around covering current shows or events, it is necessary to have a format that matches it.
This falters in the second part of the season, which drops all six episodes at once. While it was still comical, it felt strange not having something to come to week after week.
Besides the commentary, one of the show’s strengths is still the celebrity guests that stop by. From Bill Nye, Joe Manganiello and Gillian Jacobs, each feel like they care about the show more than the usual late-night show performance to promote their new movie.
One of the areas where the show flounders are some of the interlude skits. They either go on for way too long or do not work the way they would like. I would have loved more time devoted to the commentary, which is the meat of the show.
Another aspect of the show that got old after a while was having Paul Feig guest star in every episode. He always seems to be trying too hard to be funny that it killed any momentum the show had in the ending moments.
‘The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale’ feels like a show that should not exist, as it caters to such a small audience that it would not seem worth it to Netflix to produce. While it has changed to cater to a new audience in a different pop culture zeitgeist, it still has that same energy as ‘The Soup’ had before. It also works as a background noise show, in an age of shows demanding your full attention it is nice to have something to fill the silence with when you are cleaning the house.
With how sudden the first season wrapped up, the likelihood of a second season does not look too promising. For a show that seems to require a minimal budget, it really should be something that can flourish under the radar in between the epic Netflix blockbusters.