Television

Tosh.0 vs Web Soup: Daniel Tosh won the battle, but did Chris Hardwick win the war?

Last month, Comedy Central announced that Tosh.0 will be renewed for a fifth season, starting in January, 2013. The show debuted in June, 2009. Also debuting that month was another show that revolved around internet viral video clips, G4’s Web Soup. Web Soup was one of three spin-off sister shows of The Soup  (the original clip show.) And while it comes as no surprise that a show on a basic cable channel trounced a similar show on a digital cable network (i.e.: not basic), the startling revelation may be that the host of the cancelled show may be the one who is set up in the long run to have a brighter future.

There are many similarities between the two hosts, Daniel Tosh and Chris Hardwick, besides hosting internet clip shows on TV. Both are brilliant stand-up comedians. And both have dabbled in animated voice acting. It is the contrast in their personae that makes this comparison most fascinating to me. Tosh’s comedic style of being an equal opportunity offender (to the point of raising controversy in one of his stand-up performances), establishes him, in ‘net parlance, as The King of Trolls. Harwick’s self-professed geekery establishes him as The King of Nerds. So it was only natural that the former would be on a network known for mean-spirited celebrity roasts, while the latter would be on a network that is known for wannabe ninjas.

There really isn’t that much variance one could have in the genre of clip shows based on internet videos. The biggest difference between the two shows is production value. Web Soup may have had the same production crew as E!’s The Soup, it certainly did not have the same budget. And when Comedy Central realized that Tosh.0 was a hit and ordered more and more episodes, the quality of the show’s production went up (the show’s content is quite entirely a different matter). Had the hosting roles been reversed, the ratings and outcome probably would not have changed significantly. The demise of Web Soup in mid-2011 may have changed the outcome of both hosts. The cancellation may have opened some new paths for Hardwick, and may have locked Tosh into one.

Even before landing the Web Soup gig, Hardwick was building his own little empire known as Nerdist. What started as (probably) a simple website has turned into a multimedia conglomerate of podcasts, a YouTube channel, and a TV show on BBC America. He has recruited and enlisted some fairly talented people to contribute in front of, and behind the cameras and/or microphones, including “Weird” Al Yankovic, and Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate. I’m impressed, and Nerdist is one of the sites that inspired me to start my blog. Hardwick has been able to parlay his website into hobnobbing with celebrities, actors, and musicians; whether it is bowling for charity (he is, after all, the son of a legendary professional bowler), or inserting himself into a music video featuring Ben Fold Five and the Fraggles of Fraggle Rock.

Tosh is trying to expand his horizons as well. Last week, we saw the premier of Brickleberry, a cartoon in which Tosh is one of the executive producers. He also provides the voice for one of the characters. One of the promos (in a postcard format) states that “Daniel Tosh Welcomes you to Brickleberry.” That reminds me of the classic Amblin cartoons whose title begins with “Steven Spielberg Presents.” I’ll hold off on my review until I see a few more episodes. It is very similar to Joel McHale, host of The Soup, pulling double duty by co-starring in the sit-com Community.  For his sake, I hope the new show does well. I just can’t help but feel that Tosh.0 has painted Daniel into a corner in terms of his career. Yes, the website is most impressive, but I can’t tell how much of it is due to the Comedy Central domain, and how much of it is from Daniel. Since the show is the nexus for all of his other endeavors, (e.g.: his stand-up tours) what would happen if CC decides to replace Daniel as the host, or cancel the show altogether? Sure, he can still hit the stand-up circuit, but would he still retain all of his twitter followers? On the other hand, the point would be moot if Tosh.0 has the influence as CC flagship shows, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and Brickleberry becomes the next South Park. If the Tosh.0 joyride ever does come to a close, he could follow other successful stand-up comedians and start-up his own podcast. Perhaps he’d get picked up by Nerdist.

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