NBC’s Bet on Chelsea Handler: The New Supertrain, or Pink Lady and Jeff?

NBC seems betting big on “Girl in the City” type sitcoms, along with Fox (the New Girl with now newly divorced Zoey Deschanel, sister to Bone’s Emily Deschanel, and yes daughter of famous cinematographer and director Caleb Deschanel), and CBS (“Two Broke Girls.”) “Are You There, Chelsea?” based on late night talk-show host and comedienne Chelsea Handler’s book, “Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea!” The bet seems weird, akin to the old “glory days” of not just bad, but wretchedly bad NBC programming. The only question is, will the show be more Supertrain (a late 70’s NBC show about an atomic powered train, no I’m not making this up either), or Pink Lady and Jeff (a similar era show featuring a stand up comic and two Japanese singers who did not speak a word of English).

The series, starring Laura Prepon as the young Chelsea Handler (Chelsea Handler can’t act) with occasional guest spots by Handler as her “super-judgy” older Christian Sister, opens with a bang. Handler’s character is convicted of a DUI. That convinces her to … find an apartment within walking distance of her job at a local bar. The plot revolves (as in the book by Handler) drinking, having sex, and passing out.

This version of Handler’s life opens with Chelsea in jail on a drunken driving charge, praying to vodka for help. Released, she vows to change her life — not by reducing her drinking, but by moving closer to the bar where she works so she won’t have to drive.
That contrivance is enough to set up the show’s two main locations: The bar, where she works with her best friend Olivia (Ali Wong), and the new apartment she and the equally wild Olivia share with the naïve, virginal Dee Dee (Lauren Lapkus). And oh, the fun they have making fun of Dee Dee’s virginity.
Vulgarity and lack of taste aren’t the issues here as much as a deadening single-mindedness. Almost every joke that’s not about Chelsea’s desire to drink is about her desire to have sex (or, if a red-haired man is involved, not have sex). It’s enough to make CBS’ Monday lineup look classy by comparison.

Note of course the red-hair stuff. Red hair on women is generally attractive, on men not so much. British actor Damien Lewis (“Life,” “Band of Brothers,” “Homeland”) pretty much mostly plays villains (because of his red hair). It accentuates paleness which the modern female audience finds distasteful in men as much as it is desirable in women. Of course to have the one you must have the other, a fact with which sadly, the modern female audience does not understand.

As another review put it, drunken behavior leading to a DUI and no ambitions beyond working in a bar, drinking, and hooking up would label a male character a failure. But not a female one.

But still, the trainwreck is interesting. First, that NBC thought a show with no laughs would work. Second, that Handler herself would be a desirable model for women (who make up approximately 85% of the sitcom audience) to tune in to watch. Oh all the high-points are hit. Virginity (generally making a woman more, not less desirable, and certainly more desirable than a woman with a high partner count) being mocked … by other women? Check. Glorification of the bar-slut scene? Check. “Super-judgy” older sister (who presumably thinks drinking till one passes out and random sex with strangers is not a wise move) check!

And for aging cougars with a booze problem, this will undoubtedly be a DVR hit, if only they manage to record it in the first place. There’s that vodka problem. As amusing as the play on a Judy Blume novel called “Are You There God? Its Me Margaret” the amusement tends to fade after quickly glancing at the book cover and moving on. Handler’s first book was titled “My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One Night Stands” which is pretty one note. [Handler is probably best known for “oops accidentally” released sex tape and dating 50 Cent.]

Commenters on the LAT story, since removed called her “leathery” and noted she was probably hot ten years ago.

Chelsea is not presented, professionally, as a version of her original — not an aspiring comedian, writer, TV star or a person with any clear ambition beyond drinking and sleeping around and hanging out in the New Jersey sports bar where she works, and drinks, and picks up men.

We are, you may have noticed, or heard, in a TV season characterized by shows driven by strong female characters, though the history of television comedy is hung on a long line of unconventional women. Still, this is not exactly Mary Richards’ search for love. “Are You There, Chelsea?” takes the intemperate habits that were long the province of the crazy sidekick and gives them to the lead. The flip side of this emancipation — ewomancipation? — is comedy that seems to celebrate binge drinking and its attendant unintended consequences.

“Chelsea” begins, weakly, with its star in jail for DUI; the main development in the pilot is when she rents a room in an apartment within staggering distance of her job. If these attributes were transferred to a male character, you’d get some hopeless loser, or Charlie Sheen. This is a funny idea of progress, but it is a kind of progress all the same.

The show of course will fail. What is mildly amusing in a little-seen talk show on E! (Chelsea Lately) is not likely to work as a weekly sitcom. First, its not funny. Secondly, leads have to be a calm center, not “zany,” even the great and missed Don Adams had a calm center to Maxwell Smart, never going “zany” and acting like he was out on a limb. The zany stuff only works in small doses: Seinfeld’s Kramer (Michael Richards), or George Costanza (Jason Alexander). If the jokes come all the time, the audience can’t catch its breath, and just surrenders switching the channel. And one-joke shows generally don’t last that long. Nor do unlikeable leads (ask Jay Mohr about “Action!”)

But more importantly, the female audience does not crave a life of binge drinking and one-night stands. Seinfeld worked because guys wanted to be Jerry (the sane one and one with a modicum of fame and money) and women desired him. Sitcoms with a female lead, have to have an end-state. After all, Handler herself is minor in the Hollywood fairy tale pantheon next to the endless tale of tabloid tangles that Jennifer Aniston (the wronged woman), Brad Pitt (the desirable hunk), and Angelina Jolie (that man-stealing bad girl!) spin every week for their female readers. Don’t believe me, just look at them next time you buy groceries.

Chelsea Handler’s life in the show, is not very funny. Because it is sad — a woman wasting her looks and desirability, both limited, on what? Drunken boozy hook-ups that lead nowhere? To no love, no romance, no possibility of kids by a fantastic, great man?

Slate did not much like it either:

It is difficult to situate the fictional Handler in terms of class. Blue-collar isn’t quite the word. Rather, her social station is typified by the deep V-neck collar of the t-shirt that clings fondly to her as she waits tables at a New Jersey sports bar. This is not a service-industry gig held in the spirit of a middle-class slacker or a working-class striver, but of a career party chick. We might compare Chelsea’s life as a real alewife of New Jersey with that of her friend and roommate Olivia (Ali Wong) who has gone to college to become a journalist, God help her, and who has designs on an internship in Manhattan. Chelsea, in contrast, is going nowhere, professionally or emotionally. To underscore the latter point, the series offers her a second foil, an innocent soul named Dee Dee, played by Lauren Lapkus, who, with her round eyes and wiggling limbs, reads as a hybrid of Zoe Kazan and Shelley Duvall’s Olive Oyl.

Nevertheless it is interesting to see that NBC actually moved this from pitched script, to shot pilot, to production. Believing that a boozy life as a female “bro” akin to perhaps Snooki (who functions as a laugh point not heroine since people laugh AT HER not WITH HER) will be a success. Because Jersey Shore got lots of publicity. And people like to laugh at Snooki. [They do, and they do because Snooki is a lower middle class Guidette who gets her comeuppance regularly on the show. If nothing else, America is obsessed with status since status as Seinfeld amply demonstrated, determines EVERYTHING: your love life, employment, treatment on the street, everything.]

If nothing else, this show is indicative of how broken NBC really is. How little Comcast has fixed that broken-ness. Chelsea? The only question is: Supertrain? Or Pink Lady and Jeff?

About whiskeysplace

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24 Responses to NBC’s Bet on Chelsea Handler: The New Supertrain, or Pink Lady and Jeff?

  1. No Show says:

    Whiskey, why do you sit through and watch these terrible shows oriented to people you don't like or relate to? Women, young girls, gay guys these seem to be the target demographic of the shows you complain about.I don't even bother with TV. It's a passive, waste of time to sit and watch this garbage created by and for people I don't relate to.Get a motorcycle, go hiking, read old books, join a sports league.Get away from TV and movies it's for sheeple, the low IQ herd.Or watch older TV shows and movies.

  2. Coors says:

    "Whiskey, why do you sit through and watch these terrible shows oriented to people you don't like or relate to? Women, young girls, gay guys these seem to be the target demographic of the shows you complain about."Thank God you do Whiskey. I don't have the patience. I used to be a regular prime-time watcher but it just got too feminine and political. Got a few men shows on Cable like AMC and others, some UFC, college Basketball (boycotting the pink NFL), Dr. Who, The Tudors and I really am ape-shit over the deer-hunting and gunshows. The rest of the channels aren't worth my full cable package. Haven't found a way around this dilemma yet. I just need 5-6 channels and FOX.

  3. Coors says:

    and MSNBC and NBC have the most effeminate men and soft, gay color schemes I've ever seen. CNN is somewhat better.

  4. Mike43 says:

    Wife and daughter were eager to see it. I was not impressed. It will get moderate ratings and disappear within a couple of weeks.Thank goodness.

  5. Wow. This woman is the poster child for wasting your peak SMV years chasing bad boys. Make your money now girlfriend, because it's just you and the cats from now on.I give her two more years and then she starts telling everyone she's a lesbian.

  6. Whiskey says:

    I often have the TV on as "background noise." Like Marshall McCluhan, I am fascinated by "the Medium is the Message." Every day, hundreds of millions of Americans watch TV and absorb its messages. Primarily through advertising, but also entertainment.This matters because most voters are "low information" who trust the media, and even more the entertainment industry, on such fundamentals as "White people = boring" or "Slut it up is good." Since church going is pretty much over, people get their attitudes from somewhere. Mostly the TV. So if you want to know where cultural shifts come from, just look at any ad or entertainment show. [And yes, Handler is a poster girl for throwing away an opportunity for love/marriage in favor of transient sex.]

  7. josh says:

    Chelsea Handler is at least 1/2 a Joo. Her long-suffering father( who is portrayed in the book–of which I have read only a small portion–as trying his best to be accomodating to one of her BLACK "boyfriends") is a Joo. In the show her older sister is portrayed as sensible and nice and "Super Christian".Did they ethnically cleanse the Chelsea character of her Jooishness,so as not to have Jooze cast in a bad light? Methinks! Ironic,considering how Jooish chracters are shoved down our throats relentlessly on TV. Always remember Marlo Brando,and his late-in-life-I-gonna-die-soon-so-I-better-say-whats-on-me-mind rant about how Holywood never shows the "kike". Everyone gets trashed by the Jooze,everyone gets his share–altho not anymore as ONLY White Christians are degradable–but you never see the Jooze mistreated,you never see the kike!This show will most likely flop,as I dont think non-white girls like Handler the way they do the Kardashians.(And btw did you see the story about Khloe,the big one,not being the daughter of little ole Kardashian?)Maybe Chelsea gon' get busy wit da Black man,except he may not be the button-down,wise,white-talking,doctorlawyer,loving,kind,good,commitment-seeking SuperNigger every OTHER white woman on TV is banging;he may jes be a nigger!!Wit a big johnson!! So naturally they gotta de-Joo the gal!!

  8. DR says:

    @joshThe reason that you rarely see "joos" behaving like white trash on television is because in the real world "joos" actually hardly ever exhibit white trash characteristics.As Charles Murray has shown there is not a huge and growing gap in the behavior between the white underclass and the white overclass. American Jews having at least 15 IQ points on average above American gentiles make up virtually 0% of that underclass.Go to your local trailer park or biker bar and count how many people of Jewish descent you can find. The problems of the white underclass, illegitimacy, alcoholism, criminal behavior, impulsiveness, lack of education and domestic violence are all virtually unknown among American Jews (as they are in East Asians, upper-caste Indians, Scandinavians and any other high IQ subgroup). Look up the statistics yourself. For American media to depict Jewish people behaving like white trash is as unrealistic as Law & Order's depicting criminals as overwhelming being non-minorities. As for the show trying to "hide" Chelsea's background because her sister is Christian, you make it sound like it's unheard of for kids with one Jewish parent to ever be raised Christian. Here's a fact, a kid's religion is usually almost always decided by their mother.Handler's mother is a Mormon. Therefore I think it very very likely that Chelsea's sister in real-life is also a Mormon. Especially considering that Mormonism is a much more proselytizing religion than Reform Judaism.If you want to criticize any white-washing, it would be that Handler's sister has been converted from Mormonism in real-life to generic Christian in the show.

  9. Anonymous says:

    They may not live in trailers, but who says they don't slut it up in the big cities? Or live like the girls in SITC?

  10. Z says:

    It sounds like they turned Looking for Mr. Goodbar into a sitcom.

  11. DR says:

    @anonymousTake college-educated whites and compare to non college-educated whites. Even this relatively crude bifurcation of social class, intelligence and education reveals huge difference in behavior. Compare illegitimacy rates, divorce statistics, levels of infidelity, STD prevalence, abortion rates, age of loss of virginity, basically anything that you would associate with increased promiscuity.The relative difference between the two groups is highly significant. Some of this is due to a more forward thinking attitude, that prevents some of the problems associated with promiscuity. But there's no way there can be such a steep gradient with regard to education/intelligence/social class on these statistics from preventative measures alone.The reality is middle-upper to upper class white women (which includes the vast majority of Jewish women), tend to lose their virginity either late in high school or in college. After losing their virginity they'll accumulate no more than 1 or 2 new partners a year. The vast majority being long-term monogamous boyfriends, and hence they'll go through years and years with a single partner. Hardly any of them will have a sexual partner from a different race. Many or most will co-habitat but the vast majority of co-habitat partners from this group will get married. They'll get married in their mid-20s to early 30s and fewer than 1 in 10 will ever get divorced or cheat on their husbands.Sex in the City for these women is just an entertaining fantasy. The vast majority which will never even approach this lifestyle remotely. A fun distraction, as Whiskey says to whisk them away from the boring monogamous educated beta males that they actually date and socialize with. The reason SITC doesn't sell to the lower classes, is because the idea of banging strangers they've met in the bathroom isn't an "outrageous" fun adventure. It's their life and they live with the problems and self-loathing that such female behavior actually produces. The statistics paint a much different reality than SITC.Contrast to the lower-class women that one might find in the trailer park. Most will lose their virginity in middle school or early high school. They'll sleep with a high number of men before graduating, if they ever do. Very few of these relationships will be monogamous on either side. Women will be highly distributed unequally among the 10-15% that are "alpha males."Many of these women will become pregnant (many intentionally) before graduating high school and will either drop out or get their GEDs. If not by that time the vast majority will have a baby (most of them out of wedlock) before 21, and hence have no hope of ever obtaining a college degree.Most who do get pregnant will marry or co-habitat with their baby-daddy, even if they weren't monogamous before. This will slow down their promiscuity for several years. The vast majority of these marriages will end in divorce in 3-10 years time. Most likely they'll have several more kids by a handful of other fathers.Even when married infidelity and de-factor polygamy will stay high until women reach menopause. At this point a life of hard-living, many kids and several husbands/baby-daddys will wear down on them. They'll mostly become sexually inactive just because they're so ragged and prematurely aged that they nor any potential partners are interested in sex. Most of their time will be spent taking care of their grandchildren while their kids are out getting drunk and having casual sex.I blame "game" writers for promulgating the myth that all [modern/Western] women are sluts. "Game" blogs tend to have a lot of kernels of truth to them, but the reality is their advice is far more targeted to prole women, rather than educated upper-class women.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I am a man with pale skin and red hair, and I get laid all the time, so fuck you!

  13. CamelCaseRob says:

    A couple of good posts, DR, but did you mean for that NOT to be in this sentence or was that meant to be a NOW?"As Charles Murray has shown there is not a huge and growing gap in the behavior between the white underclass and the white overclass."I also think Josh has a point that certain "sex pozzie" college women DO slut it up and an out-of-proportion number of these women are Jewish or part Jewish.

  14. Whiskey says:

    CamelCase — it is well known that Catholic girls tend to lead along with Evangelicals as "born again Virgins."There are a few notorious outliers among Jewish women, but most are upper class and therefore behave like them — monogamous.Handler's show is about a downscale (Sports Bar!) woman not some "journalist" ala SATC being romanced by Mr. Big and other Alpha males. SATC sold because it had the princess fantasy, updated. This is what — waking up after a bad pickup?

  15. YIH says:

    LOL @ the Whackopedia entry on Stupidtrain.I actually saw one episode of that, the one with Larry Linville (fresh off of M*A*S*H, he was 'Major Burns').That he pretty much vanished afterwards is poetic justice.

  16. Anonymous says:

    @DRI'm a 24 year old guy who lived in a mixed dorm at an upper-tier North Eastern college.Monogamy was virtually unheard of. I don't think you fully understand what the new generation of females are like.

  17. dana says:

    jewish women tend to be sluts NOT because of high impulsivity and low FTO, butbecause they have higher than average masculinization–cf. dark bushy eyebrows, body hair, deep voices, masculinized intellect and lifechoices. this is the reason they led the feminist revolution. THEY wanted to be CEOs and lawyers, and they presumed the nice, soft, estrogeny, goyishe housewives of Iowa wanted to also and dragged them along into the world they were trying to make to suit them. if they had stuck to just fighting for the right of the few women who WANTED to be mannish professionals to be such without destroying the world for the normal women we wouldn't have so many problems today.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Whiskey,TV shows such as this one, can only thrive as a satire on the very self absorbed culture that you have described, rather trying to celebrate it. Such as in the British TV comedy "absolutely fabulous".

  19. James Bond says:

    Here is the Charles Murray video referred to; It's quite scary. Lower class whites are taking on all the habits of low class blacks, and we know how well that has turned out.http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/298817-1

  20. Rollory says:

    "As Charles Murray has shown there is not a huge and growing gap in the behavior between the white underclass and the white overclass."It is really really strange to me how common it is for random internet yahoos to so often write things that say the precise opposite of what their author intended. Other common examples of this I've seen would be people leaving out "not" entirely – saying something "is" instead of "is not" when "is not" is clearly what they mean.

  21. Rollory says:

    Possibly related: some years back I sent a lengthy document to a company where I was applying for a job, as evidence of my previous work. Among the reasons they eventually gave for rejecting me was that there were too many typographical errors in the document and that I should use spellcheck. I always have spellcheck turned off – I consider it a crutch – so I went through the document line by line. Found 3 clear typos. The thing about typing without spellcheck, you have to actually think about what it is you are writing, you can't assume the machine will catch all errors for you. That may be one of the bad habits that leads to such carelessness – the machine doesn't understand meanings or intent.

  22. that is one ugly whore

  23. Anonymous says:

    I'm a 24 year old guy who lived in a mixed dorm at an upper-tier North Eastern college.Monogamy was virtually unheard of. I don't think you fully understand what the new generation of females are like. Could you elaborate on that. How many men did the college girls go through a semester? a year? My guess is that the more active girls went through 2-3 per semester or 4-6 per year or 16-24 per the four years of college. And all with the best alphas they could find no doubt. Am I in the ballpark?MM

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