Tag Archives: Are You There Chelsea?

Spring 2012 Review: Are You There Chelsea?

20 Jan

I run out of things to say about these generically terrible comedies.  Distinguishing between them is difficult and sometimes feels like splitting absolutely pointless hairs.  Grouping them is also an alternatively interesting and useless experience.  Are You There Chelsea? belongs firmly to one of this year’s hot categories, series about bawdy women that show that women can get right down in the gutter with guys along with  Whitney went there, as did 2 Broke Girls (Unsurprisingly Whitney Cummings, behind Whitney and 2 Broke Girls, made several appearances on Chelsea lately).

Are You There Chelsea? stars That 70’s Show’s Laura Prepon as Chelsea, a veiled Chelsea Handler-based character. Chelsea is an unrepentant sinner, getting drunk and having sex as she pleases.  When at the beginning of the first episode, she gets a DUI, she has a moment when she decides she needs to reevaluate her life.  The hook is that, if this was an traditional, classic show she’d realize she needs to get her life together, but here what it means is that she needs to get an apartment that’s walking distance from the bar where she works.  That’s good, in theory, in that it’s modern thinking.  I’d certainly rather that outcome than her life suddenly changing drastically.  The problem is that the show acts as if that unrepentant party girl attitude is just enough in and of itself to sustain a good show.  I’m not sure whether it’s supposed to shock the conscience or just be genuinely funny, but it’s not either.  Comedy has moved past the point where the  non-traditional sitcom arc of Chelsea’s life is novel.

The show is multi-camera and has a laugh track.  If there was any sense of comic timing present in the show at all, the laugh track murders it.  It’s also complete with the usually unhelpful crutch of narration.  Entries and books could be written about the use of narration, and at its best, it’s pointed and helps us get in touch with the mental state of a character or keeps us up to date with the story so events can happen without being shown.  At its worst it points out things we can figure out on our own or adds unnecessary sentiment.  Sentiment should be earned by events that happen in the show rather than said.  At the end of the first episode, Chelsea is right beside her sister who has just given birth.  This is supposed to be a touching moment, but in case you couldn’t figure that out,Chelsea reinforces the fact with some unnecessary narration.  Are You There Chelsea? tries to be unconventional in its subject matter (the whole drunk, bawdy woman thing) but traditional in its approach with the filming method and the healthy doses of sentiment and none of it works.

The show was originally called Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea, but that title was changed due to some regulations about using the word vodka in a network show title.  Still in the script though is the use of that original title as a line within the first three minutes of the show, as Chelsea asks that question when she is in jail for her DUI.  The new title Are You There Chelsea? makes absolutely no sense but it doesn’t use the name of an alcohol product, for whatever that’s worth.  It’s also slightly confusing that Chelsea Handler plays character Chelsea’s older sister.

It’s a shame all these shows are so bad because there’s absolutely no reason there shouldn’t be a funny show led by a late 20-something dirty girl.  There just isn’t.

Will I watch it again?  No.  I feel bad when I judge shows before watching them.  I feel slightly less bad when I judge them within one minute of their starting.  It’s definitely not completely fair, but 90% of the time you can tell whether there’s a chance of a show not being terrible.  Of course, I still stuck around for the whole episode, but I suppose my mind could have been made up by then.  That said, I’m no less confident that the show was terrible.

Spring 2012 Preview and Predictions: CBS and NBC

3 Jan

(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall (now spring!) television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  12- – the show is cancelled before 13

Spring note:  It’s a lot harder to analyze midseason shows as there’s no collective marketing campaigns going on at one time, as many of the shows start dates are spread (or are even unannounced for some)  Still, we’ll take partially educated guesses.  Also, they’re a lot less likely to get partial pick ups, so maybe that trade off will make it easier)

CBS, being the all-powerful leader in television ratings, as older people simply throw out their remotes, because it’s easier to just leave their TVs on the network, has decided that the only thing missing from their line up is a Rob Schneider sitcom.  Thus, because they have just one new show, we’ll be combining their preview with NBC’s.


Rob – 1/12

If not for the existence of Work It, this would have been a landmark moment for obviously terrible television.  Of course, it’s on CBS, so I’d be foolish to count it out so quickly.  Rob is about the comedic and charismatic Rob Schneider, who after years of bachelordom marries into a close knit Mexican-American family which happens to coincidentally conform to a number of Mexican-American stereotypes.  Cheech Marin plays his father-in-law.

Verdict: 12-  Please, please be right about this one.  I’m sure people will watch it because it’s on but at least being on CBS  means you have to beat other CBS shows to stay on, and I’m not convinced it can do that.  I’ve been wrong before about CBS though and I will be again.


Smash – 2/6

NBC’s putting so much stock into this show that they’ve tried to generate good karma by naming it aspirationally.  Postured as Glee for adults, Smash is about the production of a Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe.  American Idol’s Katherine McPhee stars as a naïve Midwesterner come to take boradway by storm as the favorite for the lead.  TV veteran Debra Messing portrays one of the songwriters and Anjelica Huston plays the producer.

Verdict  Renewal – the midseason show I would be most surprised by a cancellation.  NBC is all in on Smash and postponement to midseason was a strategic decision rather than a lack of faith in the pilot.

Are You There Chelsea? – 1/11

Another title change, this time from Are You There Vodka, It’s Me Chelsea?, this show is based on the life of comedian Chelsea Handler, with the original title taken from her memoir, and changed because you can’t put vodka in the title of a network show for some reason.  Real edgy, NBC.  That 70’s Show’s Laura Prepon plays Chelsea Newman, based on Handler, while confusingly, Handler will play Chelsea’s older sister.

Verdict:  12-  It could easily get renewed, because who knows, but yeah, it’s looks terrible, and slightly smarter NBC audiences have not tolerated Whitney in the past and hopefully will extend that same feeling towards Are You There Chelsea?

The Firm – 1/8

Rather than a remake of the movie, The Firm is a continuation.  Set 10 years after the events in the film, The Firm explores what happens to Mr. and Mrs. McDeere after they come out of witness protection and start their own family and firm.  Josh Lucas plays Mitch McDeere and Molly Parker plays his wife Abby.  Much of the first season’s plot involves a battle to keep his firm independent against a takeover attempt by a shady firm.

Verdict:  12-  I don’t have a whole lot of faith in this relatively gimmicky remix.  Is The Firm that popular a product still in the public’s imagination even though the film was almost 20 years ago?

Bent – unscheduled

Amanda Peet stars as a recently divorced lawyer who hires a womanzing contractor to renovate her kitchen.  For some reason that contractor is the other main character, and I don’t know how they would keep the contractor if the show went beyond one season (they’re probably as confident as I am that it won’t.)  Jeffrey Tambor co-stars.

Verfict: 12-  I feel bad because I’ve always liked Amanda Peet.  It looks pretty dead in the water even if it ever makes TV.

Awake – unsecheduled

A far more interesting unscheduled show.     Awake stars Jason Issacs as a police detective involved in a car accident, who upon regaining consciousness, moves back and forth between two parallel lives – one in which his son dies, and his wife lives, and one in which the opposite happens.  The farther the two parallel lives more forward in time, the more they separate.  It sounds like it has the potential to be the best science fiction police procedural since Life on Mars.

Verdict:  12-  This seems so likely to share the same exact fate as fellow Kyle Killen show Lonestar.  Rave critical reviews, but nary a chance to get on its feet and become at all popular.

Best Friends Forever – unscheduled

One old friend moves in with another after the first friend divorces her husband.  This is mildly problemtic though, as the second friend’s boyfriend has just moved in and taken over the first friend’s old room.  Hilarity ensues.

Verdict:  12- A fairly low premise sitcom, it’s pretty difficult just to tell from the premise how it will be.  That said, I’m going to err on the side of cancelled – it is midseason after all.