The Jenny McCarthy Show 

The Jenny McCarthy Show is rather like an excruciatingly long version of that infamous GoDaddy commercial from last weekend’s Superbowl—the one in which Bar Rafaeli and a man named "Walter" kissed each other for a very long time, mostly just to make everyone watching feel like they were slowly dying inside, along with their hopes, dreams, ideals, and virtues. It plays on a kind of horrified disgust. Unlike GoDaddy, it’s unclear what McCarthy is selling. But both are proud to reintroduce the utterly mundane idea that women exist only to be attractive to men. It’s exhaustingly passé—as is Jenny McCarthy—as is VH1, the show’s home network—and yet the show revels in it. Co-hosts are encouraged to give lap dances to other co-hosts, before or after they describe their sex lives with their former partners. Asses are ground. Lips are smacked. And McCarthy herself takes the opportunity to expose her breasts to the camera about 10 minutes into the broadcast of the first episode. 

In fact, the curly-haired, plump, “ugly guy” from that infamous commercial, Jesse Heiman, is the guest of honor in tonight’s première of McCarthy’s talk show. The humor here appears to be the incongruity of placing an unattractive man on a rug to lie next to and perhaps even mash faces with a former Playmate of the Year. Throughout their little exchange of what could charitably called “banter,” the two suck on lollipops. It is, perhaps, suggestive, though it is not quite clear of what. McCarthy asks Jesse about his talked-about commercial—how many takes did they take of that kiss with Bar Rafaeli? Would he like to kiss her now? Is he concerned that she’s older than him? McCarthy’s minions JoJo and Joseline then drape themselves over him, cooing. It is unclear whether or not they are all going to start making out—brazenly confirming the notion that a woman’s sexuality is indeed for sale to the highest bidder—or if, instead, they are going to further try to sell the audience a domain name by making us extremely uncomfortable. Fortunately, the episode ends before any of these scenarios has time to occur. Jenny bids us a good night and asks us to return next week. It’s difficult to imagine why we would do so.

McCarthy peddles in the kind of trashy humor that is probably adorable in some very specific situations. Of course, none come immediately to mind, but presumably they’re out there, because she’s made quite a name for herself—first as a Playboy model, and then as an outspoken opponent of, well, vaccination. With a résumé like that, she’s clearly completely qualified to host a late-night talk show on VH1—a full half-hour of the most banal kind of insipid commentary that already dominates the media. Important “news items” include the shocking revelation that David Beckham looks good in underwear coupled with the stunning news that the Grammy Awards are on Sunday.

The Jenny McCarthy Show is a foray into the aggressively asinine, the stubbornly idiotic. It’s unfunny, pointless, and kind of offensive—not even in a particularly fun, interesting, or humorous way. Strangely, the show seems to know exactly how dumb it is, but is disinclined to do anything about it. Almost no effort is put into the production or writing of the show—the jokes are primarily off-the-cuff, supplied by what may end up being a rotating cast of McCarthy’s friends. The primary creative instrument for the hosts appears to be alcohol; not just to inspire them to make brash statements and sit on each other, but also to ply their audience into enthusiasm. The co-hosts Jojo and Joseline are not unfunny (Joseline in particular is immediately likable) but they suffer from having very little to discuss. Most of the jokes tend to be about the women themselves and their particular sexual histories, which must be amusing, but is a little opaque to anyone unfamiliar with the myriad people they seem to have dated.

McCarthy herself is a nervous and at times strident host—looking vaguely panicked through most of the broadcast, terrified that everyone is going to stop talking. So she spurs everyone on to further and further bizarre topics of conversation to keep the “party” going. At one point the assembled wear “grandma” wigs, shawls, and glasses in order to play a modified drinking game. The hosts each hold up a word to their foreheads, so that they cannot see it, but the other two can. Then they are to guess what is on their forehead. One of the terms to be guessed is “envelope.” Another is “seat filler.” Truly, this is a wild party.

It’s not just that The Jenny McCarthy Show is bad, though it is that, and thoroughly, horribly so. It’s also that it is aggressively trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the viewing public—through casual stereotyping, shock value, and hypersexuality—in a way that is not fun, or entertaining, or even interesting. It’s just mean-spirited. There is no joy in The Jenny McCarthy Show. There is no delight. There is no genuine emotion of any kind. It is a room full of people who have to get wasted in order to sit still for 25 minutes, a room where “breaking the rules” is still the ultimate idea of having fun. The Jenny McCarthy Show is a desperate, stupid half-hour of television. Its idiocy is only mitigated by the pity it inspires. It is an empty show in a loud and bright void. One can only assume that should you stare into the void long enough, the loud and bright abyss will stare also into you.

Stray observations:

  • So the show’s target audience appears to be people who wish they were partying, but aren’t, because they’re at home, watching VH1? Hence the continued attempts to make the show seem like a really cool party. Does that, like, work?
  • Can the 15 minutes of fame for "Walter" be over yet?
  • Surprised Jennifer Lopez’ dress from the 2000 Grammys isn’t on their list of “most revealing outfits.” Now that was a dress.
  • Give Joseline a show.
  • EDIT: I incorrectly identified actor Jesse Heiman, who plays "Walter" in the advertisement, in an earlier version of this review. I've added a clarification in the second paragraph. Sorry for the confusion! Heiman himself is a fine actor; my criticism of "Walter" is directed at those who are capitalizing on his role as "pathetic guy"—most notably, GoDaddy and this show.

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