Comedienne Chelsea Handler is a very busy woman. With her nightly talk show Chelsea Lately, and after show After Lately, Handler is committed to consistently entertaining audiences. Her highly successful memoirs My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands, Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang and Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me, have spawned the new NBC sitcom Are You There, Chelsea? Former That 70s Show star Laura Prepon stars as young Chelsea, a confident and promiscuous bartender with a fun-loving personality and a crude sense of humor. Prepon was endearing and loveable on That 70s Show, a sitcom that will forever hold a place in people’s hearts. She also showed her dramatic acting skills in the 2006 crime thriller Karla, a film about real life serial killers Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo. Unfortunately Prepon’s talent and comedic flare are wasted on Are You There, Chelsea?, a show that seems to depend on the extreme popularity and success of Handler.
The script leans towards the ineffectively dry side, and warrants few laughs. The dialog relies heavily on dirty jokes and sexual innuendos, which would be fine if there was a little variety in the writing. Both Handler and Whitney Cummings of the sitcom Whitney premiered their shows this season, and both are showing very poor rating and reviews. Handler, who plays her sister Sloane on Are You There, Chelsea?, gets most of the laughs with her famous dry style. ABC’s Greek star Jake McDorman returns to television as the bartender Rick. He, like Prepon, is certainly enjoyable, but the script doesn’t give him enough to work with. Still, it is nice to see him play a more comedic role than his last one on Greek, which ended last year. Lauren Lapkus plays the Christian gentle-hearted roommate of Chelsea and her best friend Olivia. The writers are obviously trying to get as many laughs as they can from the deep contrast between the three women. Lapkus’ character, Dee Dee, gets a lot of the laughs with her naiveté and adorableness, and if the show stays on air, it will be nice to see her character grow. Natasha Leggero and Mark Povinelli play Nikki and Todd, the two other bartenders at the sports bar Chelsea works at with Rick and Olivia. Nikki’s character is a bit of a gold digger, which makes for good chemistry with the self-reliant and independent Chelsea character. Todd, however, is a completely unnecessary character with lines that make one more confused than amused.
In one of the more recent episodes, Prepon’s former That 70s Show co-star Wilmer Valderrama, who played the very popular character of Fez, guest-starred as Chelsea’s baseball playing boyfriend. While reunions are always nice, the character he played was too one-dimensional and plain. It seems that a big problem on the show is the lack of character depth. While most sitcoms are meant to be light entertainment, the more successful ones feature characters that the audience wants to know more about. Unfortunately, Are You There, Chelsea? does not succeed in this area. It lacks the charm of Handler’s popular novels and despite having potential, the jokes seem forced and the writing uninteresting. If the sitcom wants to be renewed, it will have to make some drastic changes to its structure and content.