First Impressions

Are You There, Chelsea?

Aired on: NBC

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

            Some time ago, I wrote a review of a hysterical book written by comedienne Chelsea Handler entitled Are You There, Vodka?  It’s Me, Chelsea.  Recently, I’d been hearing some buzz about a new sitcom airing on NBC.  Are You There, Chelsea? would star Chelsea Handler and Laura Prepon and would be loosely based on Chelsea Handler’s book.  I couldn’t wait to check out the premiere episode on Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 8:30pm. 

            As in the book, the show is supposed to chronicle the events in Chelsea Handler’s anything but ordinary life.  In a strange twist, which probably shows that NBC knows nothing about marketing, Laura Prepon is tapped to play Chelsea Handler, while Chelsea Handler portrays her older sister, Sloane.  The reasoning behind this move has been explained in numerous television promos for the show - the network wanted a younger person to play Chelsea as the show is supposed to be about her life when she was in her twenties.

            The premiere episode skips a couple of chapters in the book it is based upon and jumps right to Chelsea getting arrested for a DUI.  Unlike the book, Chelsea’s arrest is not is not detailed, nor does it include the charge for criminal impersonation pressed on Chelsea by Sloane.  In fact, it is Sloane…a very pregnant Sloane…who bails Chelsea out of jail.  The time in jail was well-spent with Chelsea making special friends with the residential lesbian bully.  The entire scene was changed and shortened to fit the ten-minute segment it was designed for.

            As a result of the arrest, now that Chelsea can no longer drive, she decides to make some changes in her life.  No, she will not stop drinking, but she will stop driving.  To start things off, she will get an apartment within walking distance of her job.  The apartment comes complete with a neurotic virgin and Chelsea decides her best friend must also move in with her cat, Assface.

            The premiere episode also touches on one of Chelsea’s awkward relationships.  Trying not to discount the man simply because he has clownishly bright red hair, Chelsea becomes serious with a friend of a friend.  He is intelligent and fun to be around with, but Chelsea can’t seem to overlook that mass of bright red hair.

            Despite the fact that they changed a great deal of the book to fit the format of a thirty-minute sitcom, I found that I couldn’t stop laughing.  It was just as funny as the original material…and just as raunchy, making me wonder at the wisdom of having this show in such an early timeslot. 

            A great deal of criticism has come from having Laura Prepon portraying Chelsea Handler.  People have mostly been commenting on Prepon’s inability to act.  I disagree on that point.  I happen to think that Prepon has excellent comedic delivery.  The problem here is that the show is loosely based on Chelsea Handler’s comedic memoir and yet Chelsea Handler is relegated to a minor role in the show.  It may have been better to have Handler as a background consulting agent rather than appearing in such a minor role.  It’s not only somewhat belittling to the genius behind the sitcom, but it distracts people from the fact that she is not portraying herself.

            Despite all the criticisms, I actually enjoyed Are You There, Chelsea?  I found it to be extremely funny and entertaining.  However, I wonder if the show will outlast both its critics and its source material - it would seem the show’s creators are blowing through Chelsea Handler’s book pretty quickly by touching on three of the more important stories in the premiere episode.  Hopefully, people will get past the idea of who is playing Chelsea Handler and realize how funny the show actually is.


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