Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Freestyle 7/15/09 - Web Soup, Cake Boss

I caught an episode of Web Soup recently, the internet clip-based spin-off of E! network's Talk Soup revival, The Soup. The most obvious complaint about all these spin-offs is the totally inorganic development. Joel McHale grew into his on-screen persona as the What The? Awards became The Soup. Whether it's Sports Soup, The Dish or Web Soup, the appointed host simply does their best version of Joel today, complete with post-clip ad-libs - something Joel sunk his teeth into once The Soup got rolling. Each of these shows tries its hardest to have a stable of recurring segments like those on The Soup. But again, it comes off solely as an attempt to be like big brother.

The host of Web Soup is former Singled Out emcee Chris Hardwick. Having seen some of his other work, the show's tone is right up his alley. But because Joel came first, anyone else in these formats feels like an imitator. Chris was funny, but living in the shadow of the mothership.

Web Soup shared the same issue all web-clips-on-TV shows can't shake - the constant low-res video filled with artifacts on my high-res TV makes me want to change the channel.

I also caught Cake Boss on TLC, which premiered in April. It stars New Jersey baker Buddy Valastro and his Hoboken bakery, Carlo's. I caught Buddy on an episode of Food Network Challenge. He was teamed up with a bride-to-be to create an elaborate wedding cake for her big day. Buddy was bragging, in a vaguely sexist way, about getting the bride to see things his way.

The show is basically Ace of Cakes with an abrasive tone and a total lack of focus. We don't get a lot about the construction of the cakes. We go off on tangents involving the staff and Buddy's family. The background we get on the cake's recipients is spotty.

Cake Boss ends up portraying its East Coasters stereotypically, as people with tough guy accents acting tough while baking pastries. Buddy yells, the crew argues - the only thing missing is a spirited "fuhgedaboutit!!"

Word on the web says the events on Cake Boss are massaged by producers, with clients encouraged to act a certain way, and usual reality TV edits pumping more drama through the proceedings. When you're competing with an engaging show about a talented group of people like Ace of Cakes, I guess that sort of thing is necessary. For me, a fan of that particular show, Cake Boss is more noise than substance.

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