Image Credit: Ian White/Comedy CentralCould Comedy Central ever have known what a hit Tosh.0 would become when they launched it in June 2009? A web-clip show modeled after The Soup, Tosh.0 features comedian Daniel Tosh offering his spin on viral Internet videos, and in just one year, the program has grown from “3-year-old crying over Justin Bieber” levels of notoriety to “Charlie bit my finger — again!” levels of fame. Now, in its second season, Tosh.0‘s most recent episodes have garnered more than 2 million viewers, with the most recent airing achieving a huge 2.4 million. This is a far cry from the first season average, which came in at just above a million viewers, so it’s no surprise that Comedy Central has already renewed the program for a third season, set to debut in January 2011. Still, I’m wondering: In a television landscape inundated with pop-culture clip shows like The Soup, The Dish, and Web Soup, why is Tosh.0 blowing up?
Is it the host? Clearly, audiences are on board with Tosh’s brand of frat star/web geek humor, and while some write him off as obnoxious, he has a knack for making pop culture accessible to the uninitiated. His jokes may often be obvious, but to appreciate them, you don’t have to be an absolute entertainment junkie –- the kind who lives to snark on the ironies of reality dating. Tosh delivers his shtick with a goofy charisma that’s irresistibly funny, and his audacious (often very crude) tomfoolery is strangely engaging.
Is it the segments? Sketches like “Web Breakdown,” in which Tosh picks apart the intricacies of a popular YouTube video, or “Web Redemption,” in which Tosh invites the subject of an embarrassing online clip to lampoon/defend themselves, are unique to Tosh.0. Other clip shows stick to television, but with off-the-wall segments like “Is it Racist?” and “Above Average Girls Making Animal Noises,” Tosh.0 boldly showcases the more bizarre, graphic, shocking content that usually is only covered online.
Is it the under-served audience? Internet geeks don’t get much love on TV. Sure, there’s the G4 gaming channel, but you have to be at least 47 levels deep in the World of Warcraft to understand what’s going on there. Tosh.0 speaks to online audiences that help videos go viral, but it doesn’t drown in its own geekiness and still feels cool to watch. By boldly offering itself to a specific niché audience (think Kathy Griffin with the gays), Tosh.0 has built a loyal fan following that’s totally l33t.
But what of the other pop culture clip shows? The Soup, the longtime E! fixture which is hosted by Joel McHale, has been averaging just under a million viewers a week. Style Network’s The Dish, which is hosted by the artist formerly known as Topanga (Danielle Fischel), is enjoying modest success as well. Then there’s the G4’s Web Soup, Versus’ Sports Soup, and VH1’s now-defunct Best Week Ever, but despite their longer histories, none of these programs are any match for the current ratings bonanza around Tosh.0.
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