Joel McHale Roasts Oddball TV in New Weekly Netflix Show

Where would we be without someone to guide us through all the odd TV our brains are bombarded with? Netflix’s new weekly program, “The Joel McHale Show,” brings back the art of trolling other TV shows and digging up the weirdest videos floating around the net. Formerly known for “Community” and dishing out similiar material on E’s “The Soup,” Joel McHale takes a break from it all to host a new half hour of roasting, trolling and big laughs centered on weird television. The weekly series is based on laughing at other people’s material and while McHale isn’t the greatest host, he can be funny. He’s also making a show in a more traditional, “funny videos” tone, completely avoiding politics (except for the required jabs at North Korea). Of course the show floats on the basis of the material it digs up. McHale’s job is to bring out the real humor in content that’s already tailor-made for giggles.

In the series’ premiere, McHale’s first batch of hilarity revolves around some of TV’s oddest reality shows, including “Love & Hip-Hop” and “Sister Wives” (“A show about polygamy and…it’s just about polygamy”). Watching the clips McHale presents, one wonders if the actual viewers of these shows realize just how absurd and funny they can be. McHale isn’t even afraid to poke fun at shows from his own new network. A clip from “Ultimate Beastmaster” shows a contestant with a deep gash who then smears blood on her face like war paint or football stripes. The way McHale presents it is astounding in the way it exposes the show as some kind of insane farce out of “Idiocracy.” One of the best clips is a bizarre airing of Smackdown Live where as female wrestlers pound each other a State Farm ad begins to play to the side of the screen, complete with a terrible cover of Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me).” It really makes you wonder if any thought is given to how some content is squished together for airing.

The weakest part of the season’s first episode is a cute attempt at introducing itself as a Netflix property. McHale does a “tour” of the Netflix offices over in Hollywood, with a few actors from some hit shows popping up and showing viewers how Netflix offices offer gourmet treats to employees. There’s a funny bit about McHale “finding” the “Upside Down” from “Stranger Things,” but the whole segment feels like an unnecessary detour from the real fun of the show. Still, even in this section there are a few irreverent winks at the company (when someone says “Netflix,” the soundtrack will suddenly produce the famous sound queue from when the logo appears whenever you stream original content).

But McHale soon brings it all back to business with an absolutely hilarious section looking at TV from around the world. A South African soap features words in Afrikaans which sound so wrong in English, South Korean TV (“the fun Korea where there’s food and blankets”) is apparently obsessed with car crashes as plot devices, one clip is jaw-dropping in the way a character stops a car from striking another character standing in the middle of the street. “The Joel McHale Show” is the kind of series that will surely make other shows’ clips instantly go viral.

As mentioned early on, McHale decides to avoid politics almost completely as a host and in the content itself. What the reasoning behind avoiding the topic dominating hosted shows is unclear, but it feels like the show is a throwback to the kind of video recap programming that was so big in the 1990s, with modern flourishes in the jokes. It doesn’t matter much because the content as it is already provides enough commentary on the state of modern culture. Clips from shows like “Married with Secrets” have more to say about what we consume than any serious political program. McHale just wants to have fun, and there’s plenty to go around from the airwaves for that.

“The Joel McHale Show” is half an hour of pure escapism based on other people’s (disturbing and quirky) forms of escape. McHale is having a cheerful time making fun of it all, and as we laugh we should realize we’re also making fun of ourselves, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Joel McHale Show” premieres Feb. 18 on Netflix with new episodes airing every Sunday.