Thursday, June 11, 2009

Postmortem: Best Week Ever

It was announced this week – first via Twitter-happy comic Doug Benson (who is also the man behind the awesome and entertaining I Love Movies podcast) and then confirmed through various other sources including Tompkins himself – that VH1’s weekly clip show, Best Week Ever with Paul F. Tompkins, was going on “hiatus” until 2010.

What this probably means is that Best Week Ever with Paul F. Tompkins is not likely to return to the network, which is really not at all a surprise, considering that the show aired on VH1 and Tompkins did not have to eliminate a broken, alcoholic Los Angeles-area stripper each week. Instead he had to riff on the same exact reality show clips Joel McHale already made fun of a half hour earlier every Friday night.

Tompkins’ run hosting Best Week Ever was a really interesting experiment to watch. The show started out without a proper host, as a way of extending VH1’s seemingly endless “I Love the [Decade]” series, where underpaid comics made cracks about old pop culture artifacts. Initially they tried to translate that series – a bunch of talking heads making jokes about pop culture - into a weekly half-hour format with familiar comics from the show commenting on current events (rather than moldy 80's sitcoms), including folks like Hal Sparks, Mo Rocca, Michael Ian-Black, and Frangela.

What it eventually became - after extensive retooling - was basically a competitor to The Soup, where host Tompkins would riff on clips from reality shows, network dramas and the occasional viral video. They had a few distinct segments – The Sizzler, which was all strained tabloid comedy with comedian Chuck Nice, a Tompkins green-screen interview with some celebrity or a chat with the most recent American Idol loser, and a bit featuring the dry comic stylings of the aforementioned Doug Benson.

To be honest, the show wasn’t great. Paul F. Tompkins is an extremely talented comedian but the show felt suffocating. He wasn’t given much room to breathe, and everything came across as way too scripted. He was stuck making fun of the same 8 clips everyone on the internet had already mocked days beforehand, and his immediate competition (and by that we mean The Soup) was already far enough ahead in the ratings and recognition to leave this show behind by a wide margin. Not only that, it suffered from a lack of energy; there was no in-house audience. The union crew on Countdown with Keith Olbermann is allowed to laugh at the host’s jokes, for god’s sake. For some reason, Best Week Ever felt like poor Tompkins was talking to an empty room.

Given that there are now no fewer than 2 Soup spinoffs and Best Week Ever always felt a bit like an also-ran, it’s pretty clear VH1 is essentially throwing in the towel on this one. Hopefully we’re wrong, and when the damn thing "comes back" in 2010 (which, let's face it, is a longshot), perhaps they’ll have found a way to make it work while still employing all the great comic talent they had for this go-round. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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