Former The Soup host goes sous vide in this celebrity cooking competition
Celebrity Beef is a new cooking competition show on E! The premise is that two celebrities who are feuding will settle their differences by cooking. Whoever makes the best dish wins, and their charity gets some money. Hosted and judged by Joel McHale, Celebrity Beef is… okay. Aggressively okay.
I’m a big McHale fan, going back to his days on The Soup and his starring role on Community. I’ve enjoyed his other hosting gigs on shows like the new Card Sharks and Crime Scene Kitchen, so I was looking forward to this. However, it all feels very slapdash and lazy.
So first off, the “Beefs” aren’t particularly beefy. We aren’t talking Drake vs Meek Mill here or Kanye vs Pete Davidson. The first episode features Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) beefin’ with her best friend Rachael Harris (Lucifer). Their feud? The “beef” that compelled them to hash it out on national TV? Cheryl thinks Rachael complains too much, and Rachael says she’s just assertive and Cheryl doesn’t appreciate it when her complaints fix a problem. Whoa, better hide the knives.
To settle this generational feud, the two friends have to bake cupcakes. Are there any special ingredients or instructions? Like, make a cupcake with squid ink or decorate it to look like Joel’s hair? Nah. Just make a cupcake in an hour. And Joel kibbitzes while they do it.
It’s all amusing enough, but the show has zero stakes and has a hard time justifying its existence. Even Joel seems a little bored with it. At one point, Cheryl Hines loses a challenge and the penalty is to finish her cupcakes while handcuffed to the host. However, it doesn’t last very long. Joel uncuffs himself, saying “I got tired of my bit. That’s the first time I ever got tired of my bit before anyone else did.”
It’s just Joel and the beefers on stage, with the occasional cutaway to a stone-faced floor director. The show would really benefit from a studio audience or even a few other celebrity judges. Maybe have their mutual friends or co-stars weigh in on the beef and judge the cooking. Right now, the jokes just drop into the emptiness of the studio, with only the competitors laughing at them.
This show occupies an odd space. Joel McHale isn’t as snarky or funny as he was on The Soup, the concept isn’t as inventive as something like Crime Scene Kitchen, and the cooking challenges lack the spark of shows like Chopped or Nailed It! It’s fine as something you land on while channel surfing or something that comes on after E!’s block of Modern Family reruns, but nothing I’d seek out on purpose. As something to chill out with on a hot summer night, it’s perfectly okay.