Chelsea Handler partners with Netflix for new talk show

The normal procedure for reviewing a late night show is for critics to assess the host on the first night while trying their hardest to emphasize how unfair it is to review a talk show based on its premiere episode. But, in honor of Chelsea Handler’s new Netflix talk show, “Chelsea,” I decided to wait and give her the first week of her strange Wednesday-Thursday-Friday air pattern before settling in to review the show.
During the first episode, Handler repeatedly tells the audience, in the studio and at home, that “Chelsea” isn’t a typical talk show, even though it is.
The first difference is the weird Netflix release situation. There are three shows that drop every week at the same exact time around the world, even if that time is likely to be inconvenient for much of the world. Netflix doesn’t care about live viewership, but I do think it is important to mention that the first episode seemed like it was generating a lot of interest on Twitter. But, I haven’t heard a word about the show since. That probably has to do with the fact that “Chelsea” is a typical talk show.
The second aspect of the show that is different than most is that there is no monologue, or so Handler proudly told us in Wednesday’s premiere on May 11 as part of a monologue about the lack of monologues.
The second episode, which premiered on May 12, started off with Handler having a conversation with the audience about their favorite sleep aids. So, yes, there was technically no monologue in this episode. But, Friday’s third episode, released on May 13, began with Handler standing center stage discussing why she doesn’t know anything about superheroes but also doesn’t care to know. Unfortunately, this wasn’t as much of a monologue as it was a directionless ramble.
But, I do have to give Handler some props here. I admire her for walking away from the standard opening monologue that so many late night hosts implement. Handler just needs to find her footing, and she will be fine. It just wasn’t the best plan to start the show talking about not doing monologues by performing a monologue.
Another plus for Handler is that her studio has at least three different locations to conduct interviews, a very different look from your typical talk show. After just three episodes, I am still not quite sure which sitting areas are reserved for which types of guests.
My least favorite location would be the corporate glass desk accompanied by two horribly uncomfortable office chairs. The table has only had one interview with TED curator-in-chief Chris Anderson that was mostly an excuse for Handler to play her fake TED Talk on the nature of time.
The location that has gotten the most use thus far is a fun arc of sofa parts, built around a low wooden coffee table. This is where Handler puts people she is friendly with. So, during her interview with Drew Barrymore, they sat around the coffee table enjoying a bottle of Barrymore’s new wine while talking about her recent divorce, a touchy subject that I thought would never be discussed, but Handler just went for it.
Finally, there are two padded, comfy chairs where Handler spent the whole third episode with Chadwick Boseman who plays the Black Panther in “Captain America: Civil War.” This is where Handler went on and on about how little she knows about superhero movies and comic books. All Boseman did was sit there smiling and nodding, probably wondering how this was helping him promote his movie in the slightest bit.
One of the best features of the show is the recurring star, Handler’s dog Chunk. Chunk is always so happy to greet the guests and beg for Handler’s attention. The show needs more Chunk.
One thing Handler has always been known for, particularly in the talk show format and in her recent Netflix documentary “Chelsea Does,” is disingenuously parading her alleged ignorance but then countering it with an eagerness to learn and absorb all of this new information, a curiosity that often comes from unexpected directions. For example, whenever I see Pitbull, I am usually the person pressing the fast forward button, but after Handler transitioned into asking him questions about his SLAM! charter school and the teachers who inspired him, I have never witnessed such a sympathetic Pitbull in my life. It was a nice change from the Mr. Worldwide we usually see.
A filmed dinner party with Handler, Chris Evans and other members of the “Civil War” cast members lagged on when Handler wasted time on lame comic book jokes, but when the conversation shifted to gender disparities in Hollywood, it suddenly become interesting. Although this doesn’t get great conversation, this is the best thing about “Chelsea.” It forces the guests to think on their feet, even though it probably won’t continue because guests and their publicists will soon catch on to Handler’s tactics.
I do have to say it is a refreshing change to see Handler not have a whole show dedicated to making fun of celebrities and pop culture events. That is every talk show, late or morning. Inquisitive “Chelsea” is a talk show host I can get on board with. Not every episode will be the same, and that’s what makes it so appealing. Through its first three episodes, “Chelsea” is a pretty straightforward talk show that needs some work but is overall a promising venture for Netflix and Handler.