Chelsea Handler woman-handles prime time in NBC’s “Are You There, Chelsea?”

Are you there, hip, young prime-time viewers longing for something a little less snuggly than ABC’s family-centric Wednesday-night comedy block? ’Cause it’s her. Chelsea.

You know, Chelsea Handler — television’s go-to gal for take-no-prisoners late-night chatting? The little-people-loving, boss-dating, Piers Morgan-filleting girl-grenade upon whose show Chelsea Lately her now-bosom-buddy Jennifer Aniston admitted she appeared so Handler would poke fun to Jen’s face instead of behind her back?

Now Handler’s gone prime time with Are You There, Chelsea? Letting That ’70s Show alum Laura Prepon have all the fun as man-hungry bar babe Chelsea, Handler instead dons a dark wig and stick-up-the-keister diction to play her own pregnant sister. The half-hour comedy (helmed in part by The Cosby Show and Roseanne ace Tom Werner) is based on Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, Handler’s best-selling homage to well-lubricated bad decisions. Hence, fans of the book should be thrilled to see that her prison experience, lowdown curiosity about red-haired men, and leeringly unfiltered papa are all right there in the premiere. Along with a dazzling array of descriptors of, uh, lady parts.

But will the average prime-time viewer — ladies especially — be just as thrilled?

“I don’t think women are that squeamish,” Handler says. “And I think the more you hear people say something, the more everyone gets used to hearing it — and that’s what will happen with this. There’s much more important things to freak out about!”

Are You There, which follows the midseason return of the equally freewheeling Whitney, starring Handler’s friend and fellow comic Whitney Cummings, indeed provides viewers with a one-two punch of pungent comedy that NBC’s new entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt (who cut his programming teeth on such Showtime jaw-droppers as Dexter, Weeds and The L Word) says the network badly needs.

“When you get into business with someone whose voice you really like, you need to let it go out there unfettered,” Greenblatt told The Hollywood Reporter. “ [Chelsea’s] smart enough to know that she’s doing a mainstream network television show and that there are things …that probably don’t make sense in the bigger landscape.”

“It’s long overdue,” Handler says. “It’s a really good time for females in comedy in general so the timing couldn’t be more perfect for a ton of women to be on television and be successful at it.”

Hopefully a ton of viewers agree.

Are You There, Chelsea premieres Jan. 11 on NBC.

Photo/video ©NBCUniversal Media, LLA

About Lori Acken

Lori just hasn't been the same since "thirtysomething" and "Northern Exposure" went off the air.
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