Rachael Harris, Joel McHale and Cheryl Hines in "Rachael Harris vs. Cheryl Hines"
Jeff Lewis, Joel McHale and Missi Pyle in "Jeff Lewis v. Missi Pyle"
Loni Love in "Justin Sylvester v. Loni Love"
Joel McHale and Justin Baldoni in "Andy Grammer v. Justin Baldoni"
Dolores Catania in "Dolores Catania v. Caroline Manzo"
Caroline Manzo and Joel McHale in "Dolores Catania v. Caroline Manzo"
Cynthia Bailey and Joel McHale in "Cynthia Bailey v. Todd Bridges"
Ben Higgins, Joel McHale and Nick Viall in "Nick Viall v. Ben Higgins"
Joel McHale is nothing if not a humble TV personality. He describes his new unscripted series Celebrity Beef as "the most necessary television ever made." He wanted to host it because "I got really nice new products for my hair, and it's kept very well in place the whole time." His expectations? "Three words: Peabody, Emmy, Peabody."
In his defense, Celebrity Beef — premiering August 2 on E! — is seriously delicious. Each week, two bickering celebrity pals attempt to squash their feud in the kitchen as they whip up the same dish and air their grievances. Winners of individual challenges are given access to exclusive ingredients, while the losers are given creative punishments — like having their chef's knives swapped out for gardening tools.
McHale, in Tom Colicchio-meets-Judge Judy mode, declares the ultimate victor, who receives a trophy, $10,000 for charity and smug satisfaction. In the first episode, comics Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Rachael Harris (Lucifer) complain about each other's annoying travel habits during a cupcake-baking challenge; McHale shares that hosts Loni Love (The Real) and Justin Sylvester (Daily Pop) "really brought it" as well.
"I describe the show as three friends yelling at each other while cooking," he explains. "But it's a light-hearted argument in the best way. Every pair had a certain amount of charm because they weren't strangers. It made me happy that there was a relationship beforehand." In fact, as an executive producer and amateur foodie, McHale also helped pick the talent and plan the menu.
McHale, of course, is no stranger to E! — or culinary-related titles, for that matter. From 2004–15, he skewered the week's most salacious pop culture moments on The Soup. (He hosted the last four seasons while simultaneously starring on the acclaimed NBC comedy, Community, which ran from 2009–15.) "It was just me and a green screen for The Soup," he says. He knew Celebrity Beef was a cut above when he walked on the set: "I was like, 'What the hell is going on?' because it was so nice! The show is well-made, and my wife said she was actually interested in it. That's a ringing endorsement."
(McHale took a turn this year in another food-centric series — FX's The Bear — in which he had a small, but memorable role as an impossible-to-please New York City chef.)
An avid TV fan, McHale says with utmost sincerity that he could spend two hours discussing his favorite shows. (Note: The A-Team and Nathan for You were honorable mentions.) But he whittled down his list to seven for Emmys.com.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus (BBC, 1969–74)
Everything would seem so ordered in my world. Then I'd turn that on and be like, "Well, this is batshit." The show was so absurd and surreal and wonderfully silly. It really had a lot to do with shaping me because I'd think, "If I can just do that all my life, I'll be very happy." John Cleese also looked like my dad, and my dad was kind of a goofball, too. The only difference was that Cleese weaponized his humor.
- Sanford and Son (NBC, 1972–77)
If you watch some old shows, it's easy to be like, "Oh, this was just of the moment." But Sanford and Son should be shown in classrooms because it's so funny and still holds up. It's really about a father and a son and how annoying and wonderful they are to each other. I loved that Redd Foxx always called his son a big dummy. He was an unmitigated comic genius. The man literally died on stage.
- Flipper (NBC, 1964–67)
I grew up in Seattle. So, as a kid, I always thought, "Wow, there's a place where the water is warm, and animals can kind of talk to people!" And there's Martin Sheen playing a villain! I'll never forget how good he was in that one episode [1967's "Flipper and the Seal."] I still can't put my finger on it, but there was something so different about what he was doing. I know the show wasn't the astrophysics of drama, but, boy, it was a great adventure.
- Battlestar Galactica (Sci Fi, 2004–09)
Glen Larson created the original show and was a [consulting] producer on this one. But [showrunner-executive producer] Ronald D. Moore took the reins and was like, "We're going to supersize this thing and go from a flip-flop to a ski boot." This show was so wonderfully sophisticated and innovative with flawless performances. And it was perfect-looking. Sci-fi always gets pushed to the side, but it's produced some of the greatest storytelling.
- The Boys (Prime Video, 2019–)
Comic book shows have to be careful because kids are watching. This one was made for adults. The point of view is so different compared to any other superhero show, and yet it's incredibly funny and well-acted. Jack Quaid is just a perfect lead. The whole cast is phenomenal. There are only eight episodes each season, and I get so sad when it's over. It's like, "What am I going to do without you?" They better make more!
- Match Game (CBS, 1973–79)
I'm talking about the '70s version with Gene Rayburn. Richard Dawson, Charles Nelson Reilly, Nipsey Russell and a young Betty White — actually, she's not that young! — were the regular panelists. They were just so casual while laying out punchlines and being themselves. You could tell they were having a party that happened to be a game show. And it captures this wonderful time in the 1970s. When I watch it today, I'm just like, "Oh, just be loose and hang out, and good things will happen."
- What We Do in the Shadows (FX, 2019–)
It's such an original idea! I'm actually very jealous of it because it's so good, and I wish I were on it. That's a very good sign. [Executive producer] Taika Waititi is the real fucking deal. [There are] super-intelligent jokes, and then there's a fart joke. I'm hard-pressed to name another show besides Monty Python that just makes me laugh aloud. But the story is tight: The writers leave little clues as to where it's going, and it's never how you imagined.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length