January 11, 2012

Is network TV ready for Chelsea Handler? (PHOTO)

The busy E! host is bringing her salty brand of single-gal-in-the-city humor to NBC in 'Are You There, Chelsea?,' which is based on her bestseller.

For fans who may have fretted that a network sitcom would take the fire out of Chelsea Handler, consider a few bits from the upcoming debut of the NBC series "Are You There, Chelsea?"

When viewers first meet Chelsea, a wild young thing who slings cocktails for a living, she's just been hauled to jail for drunk driving. In the holding cell, she prays to vodka — not God — to get her out of her mess, promising to turn over a new leaf. That later involves moving within walking distance of the bar, not getting sober.

The hard-partying character, played by Laura Prepon interpreting a twentysomething Handler, could be the first to coin the sexually descriptive term "lady wood" on network prime-time TV.

So we're clear that this single-gal-in-the-city tale isn't "The Mary Tyler Moore" show, right?

In this post-"Bridesmaids," Kathy Griffin, "2 Broke Girls" era, female comedians are increasingly testing boundaries like never before, industry watchers say. And Handler, a late-night talk show host who sharpens her barbs on the stand-up circuit, is happy to march right up to the line of what's considered acceptable broadcast humor with "Are You There, Chelsea?," which is loosely based on her bestselling book "Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea."

"I have no problem arguing for good jokes," said Handler, whose "Chelsea Lately" on the E! network has a devoted following, averaging about 900,000 viewers a night, particularly women ages 18 to 34, making it the highest-rated late-night show in that ad-friendly demographic. "The show is salty — it needs to be. It's not what I get away with on cable, but it's definitely edgy."

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