Are You There Chelsea? Not Really!

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NBC has been trying to turn their fortunes around by throwing things at the wall and hoping something will stick. Are You There Chelsea [Wednesdays, 8:30/7:30C] is a prime example. Like the network’s Whitney, it’s a crass, female-centric sitcom that is loosely based on the life if its creator, Chelsea Handler – and like Whitney, it’s almost entirely bereft of laughs.

Chelsea [Laura Prepon, That ‘70s Show] is a hard drinking, promiscuous [the network’s press site describers her a ‘opinionated and unapologetic’] bartender whose best friend. Olivia [Ali Wong, Breaking In] is a shorter, Asian version and enabler. She also has a born again Christian sister, Sloane [Chelsea Handler!] who might despise her lifestyle, but is always there for her.

The premiere finds Chelsea in the slammer for drunk driving. The very pregnant Sloane bails her out because she’s supposed to be her transportation to the hospital when the baby comes. There’s also an arc in which Chelsea overcomes her initial reaction to a redheaded guy whom her boss, Rick [Jake McDorman, Greek] insists is a great guy. The best thing you can say about about Todd [Mark Povinelli, Water For Elephants], another bar employee, is that he’s not the clichéd little person [the show’s one redeeming feature].

Add to the mix Chelsea and Sloane’s dad, the allegedly big-hearted/definitely big-mouthed Melvin [Lenny Clarke] and a squeaky clean, ditzy new roommate for Chelsea and Olivia, Dee Dee [Lauren Lapkus, The Middle] and the result is supposed to be a fresh, funny, deliberately crass show in which the women get to be rude and crude in exactly the same way that guys are on so many other crass shows.

The problem is that, like Whitney, Are You There Chelsea’s writers seem to think that being crass is funny all by itself. In the two episodes made available for review, I laughed twice – both times in the second ep, and both times in response to something said by someone other than the core cast. You know there’s something wrong when Lenny Clarke – one of the funniest men on the planet – isn’t.

That’s not good.

It’s also not good that less than half an hour after screening the show’s first two eps I can’t remember a single line.

So, here’s the thing: NBC has a couple of powerhouse dramas coming – Awake and Smash. Wait for Smash, which arrives February 6th, and Awake, which is awaiting a release date. Both are brilliant. Are You There, Chelsea? is not.

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Photo by Robert Trachtenberg/courtesy NBC