- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

‘Soup’s‘ on

Celebrities have more to fear than the stalkerazzi these days. Joel McHale and the gang at “The Soup” are watching and waiting for you to do something silly.

E! Entertainment’s pop culture spoof, the second generation of its “Talk Soup” program, skewers the rich and infamous with a parade of embarrassing video clips. While the earlier “Soup” concentrated on wacky talk shows, its successor expands its palette to include reality shows and celebrity gabfests, morning news programs and other entertainment magazine shows.

Tonight at 10, show host Mr. McHale and company celebrate their 103rd episode with a quirky take on the traditional TV milestone of marking such an occasion.

You might think that pop culture gives the show way too much material to chew on, but Mr. McHale says it took time for the writing team to gel.

“The group works so well together, and there’s enough people that we rarely come to a spot where we say, ‘I don’t know what we should do,” says Mr. McHale, fighting a nagging case of laryngitis that didn’t prevent him from taping last week’s show.

That means staffers watch an average of four hours of television a day to get the best — or rather, the worst moments.

Some could argue “The Soup” could simply rebroadcast VH1’s “Flavor of Love” and be done with it, but the show tracks down a juicy list of clips interspersed with the occasional comedy sketch. A recent telecast had the “Soupsters” tweaking Rachael Ray’s fluffy new talk show, mocking E!’s own reality mess “House of Carters” while also peeking at an awful Japanese exercise show.

However, “Soup’s” allure is one part Mr. McHale’s snide delivery, one part zero production budget and two parts general disgust toward the beautiful people. The ribbing can be tough, but, he insists, some stars have it coming.

“I try not to slam celebrities if they don’t deserve it,” Mr. McHale says. “When Lindsay Lohan shows up late to work or Paris Hilton is getting DUIs, that sort of behavior we focus on.”

Hosting “The Soup” means Mr. McHale can’t channel surf without doing inadvertent research himself.

“A few months ago I found this Korean soap opera where a man was courting a woman with fireworks. I thought, ‘This is great,’ ” he says.

Christian Toto

He’s baaack

District native William S. Nye — better known to a generation of youngsters as Bill Nye the Science Guy (1992 to 1998) — resurfaces on TV this weekend with a Sunday appearance on the Weather Channel’s “The Climate Code With Dr. Heidi Cullen.”

The weekly program, which aims to foster serious discussion about climate change premiered Oct. 1. Sunday’s half-hour episode, with Mr. Nye, airs at 5 p.m.

Real Marie on DVD

“Marie Antoinette,” the Sofia Coppola biopic starring Kirsten Dunst, opens in theaters today. But those looking for more information on the doomed French queen — or a less modern take on her story — are advised to check out the documentary “Marie Antoinette,” now out from PBS Home Video.

Written and directed by David Grubin, the two-hour film features interviews with historians Antonia Fraser (whose 2001 book inspired Miss Coppola’s film), Simon Schama, Antoine de Baecque, Fanny Cosandey and Evelyne Lever. Comments by the latter three, all French historians, are subtitled not dubbed; a welcome change from most American programs.

The film was first shown on PBS last month, but not everyone in the country was able to watch it. Rocky Mountain PBS, Colorado’s public television network, refused to air the documentary claiming it was worried that the Federal Communications Commission would slap the station with fines because of sexually graphic content. As noted by narrator Blair Brown, the last queen of France stood trial after the French Revolution in which she was “accused of crimes against the French Republic and appalling sexual practices as well.”

Also out on DVD alongside “Marie Antoinette” is another David Grubin film for PBS, “Empires: Napoleon.” Narrated by historian David McCullough, the four-hour documentary takes a look at another French figure we seem to both love and hate.

Compiled by Robyn Denise Yourse and Kelly Jane Torrance from staff, Web and wire reports.

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