Tuesday, January 10, 2012
NBC Mid-Season Pilot Review: Are You There, Chelsea? - Premieres January 11; TCA Winter 2012 Press Tour: ABC
Are You There, Chelsea? - Wednesdays 8:30PM ET/PT on NBC
Premieres Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 8:30PM ET/PT
Chelsea Handler has had a hilarious and storied life that she has written about in her best-selling book of autobiographical essays Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea, and now, there is a new series on the small screen that is loosely based upon that book. NBC's newest traditional sitcom, Are You There, Chelsea? is Chelsea Handler's sitcom debut, but she isn't debuting as the star. Instead, she takes a backseat as Sloane, her sister, as Laura Prepon takes the starring role of Chelsea Newman.
The sitcom, though, is only loosely based upon the book, and takes the form of a standard sitcom. Set in New Jersey, the series follows Chelsea Newman (Prepon), a young working-class twenty-something, and her friends (and roommates) as they struggle to make it through everyday life. Appearing from time to time are Chelsea's sister, Sloane (Handler) and her father, Melvin (Lenny Clarke).
* Laura Prepon as Chelsea Newman
* Jake McDorman as Rick
* Lauren Lapkus as Dee Dee
* Lenny Clarke as Melvin
* Ali Wong as Olivia
* Mark Povinelli as Todd
* Chelsea Handler as Sloane
Laura Prepon (Chelsea) plays the starring role of Chelsea Newman in the series. Prepon has appeared in many series including King of the Hill, American Dad!, How I Met Your Mother, Medium, and Castle, but what she is probably best known for is her role as Donna Pinciotti in the long-running sitcom That '70s Show.
Jake McDorman (Rick) plays the role of the bartender who works with Chelsea. McDorman has appeared in starring roles on Quintuplets and Greek.
Lauren Lapkus (Dee Dee) plays the role of Chelsea's more bubbly (and less intelligent) roommate. Lapkus is relatively new to the Hollywood scene, though she has appeared in a small role in the series The Middle.
Lenny Clarke (Melvin) plays the role of Chelsea's somewhat overbearing father. Clarke has previously appeared in series such as Rescue Me, The Job, Brothers, and The John Larroquette Show. Additionally, Clarke starred in his own eponymous sitcom Lenny in the early 90s.
Ali Wong (Olivia) plays the role of Chelsea's Filipino-American roommate. Wong is another relative newcomer to the small screen, with a previous role in the short-lived series Breaking In.
Mark Povinelli (Todd) is the "dwarf" in the series, but his actual disability is that he is color-blind. The 3'9" actor is known primarily as a stunt man, but he has also appeared in series such as Pushing Daisies and Modern Family.
Chelsea Handler (Sloane) plays the role of Chelsea's sister on the series. Of course, the series is based upon Handler's life, but rather than playing herself, she plays the role of her sister as a frequent "special guest star." Handler is primarily known for her stand-up comedy and her books that she has written, but she also hosts the E! series Chelsea Lately. She has had appearances on many sitcoms including Bernie Mac and My Wife and Kids.
For this review, we received a copy of the first two episodes of the series.
"Pilot" (airs January 11)
In the "Pilot" episode, we are introduced to Chelsea Newman, but the introduction isn't a pleasant start. Chelsea has just been arrested for her first DUI, and is waiting for her sister to come to bail her out of jail. Once out, she has lost her driver's license and needs to find a place to live that is close to work, and there just so happens to be one that is just a little over 100 footsteps (she counts them) away. Chelsea moves in to the apartment with two of her friends, and we get a first glimpse into her sex life. Meanwhile, Sloane, whose husband is deployed in Iraq and is depending upon her sister to be there for the birth of her child, worries that Chelsea may be too busy getting drunk and partying to be there.
"Sloane's Ex" (airs January 18)
While at the bar, one of Sloane's ex-boyfriends shows up and just happens to run in to Chelsea. But Matt, the boyfriend, is available, and is free for Chelsea to grab. Naturally, the love between two sisters can (and does) suffer when Chelsea ends up in bed with Matt.
Yes, we have another one of those romance sitcoms, although there is a slight touch of the classic roommate sitcom here as well. But from what I saw in the first two episodes, there seems to be a bit too much of an emphasis on the romantic part. In both of the episodes, we saw Chelsea end up in bed with a romantic interest. That isn't to say that sex scenes should be off-limits for a sitcom (and don't worry, they aren't graphic, they are very PG-13 at worst), but unless it is a show about a Nevada brothel, is it really necessary to include that in both of the first two episodes? The series really needs to work on a bit more substance.
Another issue that I noticed with the pilot (and only the pilot) is that it seemed to bring in various aspects of the entire book that the series is based upon in one episode. Obviously, it is too late to change that now, but the book could have potentially provided many great ideas for scripts and story-lines for the series. But instead, it was all dumped out in one big burst in the pilot, leaving dead-ends for the stories. While I haven't read the book, I am familiar with the stories that are in the book, and many of them would have made great plots that have now been wrecked by just the pilot episode.
I do think, though, that the series COULD be strong if it places more emphasis on the roommate aspect of the series. However, I'm not sure that the roommates that we have here are the best characters to even have. There isn't a whole lot of substance to the roommates, and all I really got out of the first two episodes is that one is Filipino-American and the other is dimwitted. I think that can be changed, though, and perhaps they could even change one (or both) of the roommates. The series has already told so much of the "autobiographical" stuff in the pilot that making changes wouldn't be too serious anyway. The work life at the bar could be interesting too, except my problem with that is that the bar characters were even less exciting.
While I've seen much better series (and I mean many much better series), I don't feel this series was a bad idea to bring to the air. However, I don't feel that many fans will be pleased with the execution of the series. The pilot really moved through too many plots too fast, and I really hope that the whole series won't be this way. It is hard to tell how successful this series will ultimately be. While Chelsea Handler does have some star power, will people be interested in tuning in to a sitcom that could stand some improvement? Hopefully, the producers will see the need for improvement and actually make some very soon, before this series gets the pink slip. It is very rare that I see a sitcom that really could have some potential that seems to have it destroyed the way this one does.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):
Discuss the show after you watch it on Wednesday, January 11 on our message board.
After lunch, ABC will have a session for Wednesday Comedy Showrunners. Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline (The Middle), Emily Kapnek (Suburgatory), Steve Levitan (Modern Family), & David Caspe and Jonathan Groff (Happy Endings). Following that, back to more show panels. First up is Scandal, from Shonda Rhimes. On hand for that are stars Kerry Washington, Henry Ian Cusick, Columbus Short, Darby Stanchfield, Katie Lowes, Guillermo Diaz, Jeff Perry, Tony Goldwyn, and producers Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers, and Judy Smith. The final new series panel is for Missing, which premieres March 15. On hand will be stars Ashley Judd & Cliff Curtis, and producers Gregory Poirier, Gina Matthews, and Grant Scharbo. And ending the ABC portion of the tour of course is Desperate Housewives, its final TCA tour. Stars Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, Eva Longoria, James Denton, Vanessa Williams, Ricardo Antonio Chavira, & Doug Savant, along with producers Marc Cherry & Bob Daily reminisce and talk about the final batch of episodes.
ABC will premiere new comedy Don't Trust the B---- In Apartment 23 on Wednesday, April 11 at 9:30pm following Modern Family. The series has a 13 episode order, but it is unclear if all 13 would air. The season finale of Happy Endings will be on April 4. Happy Endings launched last April in a similar manner. ABC has not announced a return date yet for Cougar Town, but they will in a few weeks and will give it a nice launching pad in March. Stay tuned for that!
In other scheduling news, ABC has scheduled new Shonda Rhimes drama Scandal on Thursday, April 5 at 10pm. The series will air 7 episodes this season and will follow Grey's Anatomy on Thursday nights. As a result of this change, ABC will move Private Practice to Tuesdays at 10pm for its final four episodes of the season from April 24 to May 15. It is unclear what will air Tuesdays at 10pm from March 27 to April 17, as Body of Proof is tentatively ending its season on March 20. Perhaps some Cougar Town special airings? The only other series not yet scheduled is reality series Secret Millionaire, which could be used for summer now.
There wasn't much else to report, except that Grey's Anatomy and Dancing with the Stars are going to be around for many more seasons. Stay with us in the coming weeks for that Cougar Town premiere date!
Look ahead: Up tomorrow it will be CBS and on Thursday The CW will end the broadcast portion. On Friday (Jan. 13) thru Sunday (Jan. 15) will be the cable portion. Stay with us for key updates from these events.
New on DVD/Blu-ray (March/April)
03/03 - The Dick Van Dyke Show - Now... In Living Color! (Blu-ray)
03/07 - The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Second Season
03/07 - Mama's Family - Mama's Favorites
03/07 - That '70s Show - The Complete Series - Flashback Edition (Blu-ray)
03/07 - What I Like About You - The Complete Second Season
03/07 - You Me Her - Season One
03/14 - Newhart - The Final (Eighth) Season
03/14 - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season Two
03/21 - Master of None - Season One
04/04 - Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Fifth Season
04/11 - Father Knows Best - Season Five
04/11 - Schitt's Creek - The Complete Third Season
04/11 - Silicon Valley - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
04/11 - Veep - The Complete Fifth Season
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