| These days, the "fall season" doesn't even seem to begin until October. So imagine our surprise when a new show called The Television Show with John Henson popped up on an early-September Saturday.
What's that? You didn't know about The Television Show with John Henson? We didn't think so. (It's on at 10 p.m. ET, Saturdays.) It was pre-empted once by football, and will be pre-empted by assorted Bloopers-type programming for at least the next two Saturdays. ABC doesn't seem to be promoting it, and that timeslot doesn't exactly indicate network confidence in Henson, who was quite funny as the host of Talk Soup before he got lured by network dollar signs.
Basic cable is just an audition reel for folks like Henson, his predecessor Greg Kinnear, and the smarmy Craig Kilborn, who forgot to mention to the bigwigs at CBS that he actually needs Comedy Central's writers to be entertaining. But it's as if ABC just put in a waiver claim on Henson so no one else could have him but didn't know what to do with him, or care (Clerks, anyone?).
When Henson left Talk Soup (which is now unwatchable with his replacement Hal Sparks) for a network deal, we figured he'd get a late night show, and take the Kinnear path---host something in the wee hours, like Kinnear did with NBC's Later, then head into movies. That's probably how Henson saw it happening too. But ABC is too obsessed with the care and grooming of Regis Philbin's ass to care about much anything else.
On The Television Show with John Henson, which Henson executive produces and co-writes, Henson is still introducing clips, but the material on Talk Soup was funnier to begin with, so there was more to mine. Now he's in Dick Clark Land, introducing wacky newscaster bloopers, orange-juice ads, and shows from overseas. It's America's Funniest Home Videos (complete with talking over the clips, just like Bob "I Do Blue Material Now" Saget) meets Bloopers meets Best Commercials You've Never Seen meets Henson's smarmy-yet-amusing Talk Soup backstage antics.
The funniest thing about Henson's Talk Soup was the studied shoddiness of it---the camera guys and grips laughing at Henson's shtick gave it a homey, Public Access appeal. On the new show, there's a ridiculous laugh track mixed into the studio audience's titters (they are, after all, just watching Henson stand in front of a monitor, and then the monitor itself) and it's just too slick (though at least the backstage stuff has no laugh track). Henson continues to rely on his Talk Soup shtick of being surrounded by failing equipment and stuff going wrong, but that's just hard to buy on a network show.
Hey, we don't blame Henson for being lured to the big time. It's just that nobody told him that the networks aren't really the big time anymore. Get thee to pay cable, Skunk Boy!