TV Review: "Are You There, Chelsea?"

Laura Prepon as Chelsea Handler

I love comedian Chelsea Handler. She's ridiculous and her late night show, "Chelsea Lately" on the E! network is often very funny. She's also the author of four semi-autobiographical books, one of which is titled "Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea." Which also happens to be the original title of the new NBC comedy which is loosely based on that book. Somewhere along the way, some NBC exec got nervous and removed the vodka from the title. 

That's kind of how the show feels - like someone removed the vodka. Oh, there's plenty of vodka and drinking in the show (it's partially set in the bar where Chelsea works), but NBC seems to have honed the edge off of Chandler's humor, leaving a dull and mostly unfunny show behind.

Laura Prepon ("That 70's Show") plays the young Chelsea, while Chelsea Handler plays her uptight sister (Handler thought she was too old to play herself). Comedian Lenny Clarke plays their father and the rest of the cast is rounded out with folks you've seen here and there, but don't really know. Oh, and just like in Chelsea's real-life, there's a little person. Prepon does her best, though in in scenes with Handler, we can't help but long for the real thing to play herself. The stand-out in the ensemble is Lauren Lapkus as Chelsea's goofy, virginal new roommate Dee-Dee.

The writing (such as it is) is lame, truth be told. Riddled with unfunny, repetitive jokes; bad one-liners and improbable situations, "Are You There, Chelsea" makes me long for the days when NBC had the best comedies on TV. Honestly, I can't believe Handler allowed this show to air as is. It's like someone filed down her teeth and then asked her to gum a steak. As much as I love Handler, I think I'll stick with ABC's hilarious Wednesday night line up. "Suburgatory," "Modern Family" and "Happy Endings" just seem to get better and better with each episode. I'll get my Handler fix on E!

Since this trailer was shot, several characters have been re-cast and a few moments re-written for the pilot episode that aired last night. For the record, the changes didn't help.

More, anon.
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