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?

Are You There, Chelsea? - Wednesdays 8:30PM ET/PT on NBC
Premieres Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 8:30PM ET/PT

by skees53

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).

Cast Details:

* 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.


Pilot Plot:

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.


Analysis:

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.

Conclusion:

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):

Watchability: 2/5
Funniness: 2/5
Overall: 2/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Wednesday, January 11 on our message board.

Related Links:

  • NBC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Are You There, Chelsea? Photo Gallery

    Preview:











  • Today ABC is up at the TCA Winter 2012 press tour at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, California and we will recap what has happened there today. After breakfast, we had the all-important ABC Entertainment Executive Session with ABC Entertainment President, Paul Lee. After that session, ABC turned it over to show panels with highly anticipated comedy Don't Trust The B---- In Apartment 23 up first. On hand were stars Krysten Ritter, Dreama Walker, Liza Lapira, Michael Blaiklock, Eric Andre, James Van Der Beek, and producers Nahnatchka Khan, David Hemingson, and Jeff Morton. That was followed by another high quality pilot in The River, which premieres Feb. 7. On hand are stars Bruce Greenwood, Joe Anderson, Leslie Hope, Eloise Mumford, Paul Blackthorne, Daniel Zacapa, Shaun Parkes, Paulina Gaitan, and producers Michael Green, Oren Peli, Zack Estrin. And the high quality pilots continue with a session for GCB, which premieres March 4. On hand are stars Leslie Bibb, Kristin Chenoweth, Annie Potts, Jennifer Aspen, Miriam Shor, Marisol Nichols, Brad Beyer, David James Elliott, and producer Robert Harling. Then it is lunch time.
    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.


    Sitcoms Airing Tonight

    Thursday, June 20

    The Big Bang Theory - "The Decision Reverberation" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
    Koothrappali is worried people won’t take him seriously in his own field after publishing a paper that suggests he may have discovered alien life. Also, Leonard wants to be the principal investigator on a plasma physics study.

    Young Sheldon - "Albert Einstein and the Story of Another Mary" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
    Inspired by his hero, Albert Einstein, Sheldon tries his hand at the violin. Also, Mary and Meemaw secretly buy a pregnancy test when Mary thinks she’s pregnant.

    Life in Pieces - "Letter Promise Adult Seventy" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
    When Matt and Colleen treat Jen and Greg to a fancy dinner as a “thank you” for writing a recommendation letter, Jen and Greg are mortified when they realize they never wrote it. Also, Sophia asks Tim and Heather to get her a pig; Clementine wants Tyler to stop going to his pediatrician for medical care now that he is an adult; and John’s parents decide to get a divorce.

    Life in Pieces - "Clean Pens Grandma Guys" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
    When Jen and Greg hire Edna (Mary Pat Gleason), the cleaning lady who has worked for John and Joan for years, Jen is horrified at her strange habits. Also, Matt, Heather, and Greg race to find the valuable souvenir pens John brought them when they were kids; Lucas is terrified of Joan; and when Tim invites Matt over to watch a sporting event on television, it takes a weird turn.

    Baskets - "Baby Chip" (FX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
    Chip picks up Pedialyte.

    Bunk'd - "Who da Boss? Lou da Boss!" (Disney Channel, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    Lou takes over as director of Camp Kikiwaka and welcomes new camper Gwen and camp counselors Noah and Ava.

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of June 17)

    Thursday, June 20

    • Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) - Catch Kumail on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) - Aubrey stops by Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
    • Louie Anderson (Baskets/The Louie Show/Life with Louie) - Louie is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. He also talks about Baskets on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
    • Bill Pullman (1600 Penn) - Bill visits The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Cobie Smulders (Friends from College/How I Met Your Mother) - Cobie speaks about the film Spider-man: Far from Home on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
    • Mark Consuelos (Alpha House/Hope & Faith) - Mark guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
    • Brie Larson (United States of Tara/Raising Dad) and Bradley Cooper (Kitchen Confidential) - The Ellen DeGeneres Show has favorite moments with actors who star in superhero films, including Brie and Bradley, so check your local listings.
    • Diedrich Bader (American Housewife/The Drew Carey Show) - Diedrich appears on a repeat of The Real, so check your local listings.
    • Tony Hale (Veep/Arrested Development) - Tony talks about Toy Story 4 on People Now at 12pm.
    • Tom Hanks (Bosom Buddies) and Tim Allen (Last Man Standing/Home Improvement) - Tom and Tim talk about Toy Story 4 on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
    • Justin Long (The Conners/F Is for Family/Ed) - Justin talks about Life is Short on Access Live, so check your local listings.


    New on DVD/Blu-ray (April/May/June)

    Evening Shade - The Complete Collection Perfect Strangers - The Complete Seventh and Eighth Seasons My Three Sons - The Third Season - Volume One The Brady Bunch - 50th Anniversary The Brady-est TV & Movie Collection Will & Grace (The Revival) - Season Two

    04/02 - Archer: Danger Island - The Complete Season Nine
    04/09 - You're the Worst - The Complete Fifth Season
    04/12 - Evening Shade - The Complete Collection
    04/16 - The Big C - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
    05/07 - Baskets - The Complete Season Three
    05/13 - I'm Dying Up Here - Season 2
    05/13 - My Three Sons - The Third Season - Volume One
    05/13 - My Three Sons - The Third Season - Volume Two
    05/14 - The Donna Reed Show - Seasons 1-5
    05/14 - Petticoat Junction - Seasons 1-3
    05/28 - Perfect Strangers - The Complete Seventh and Eighth Seasons (WBShop.com)
    05/28 - South Park - The Complete Twenty-Second Season (Blu-ray)
    06/04 - The Brady Bunch - 50th Anniversary The Brady-est Brady Bunch TV & Movie Collection
    06/18 - Will & Grace (The Revival) - Season Two (Blu-ray)
    More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


    Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

    06/19 - truTV Gets 2nd Season of Tacoma FD; I'm Sorry Gets Season 3 on truTV
    06/18 - NBC Fall 2019 Premiere Dates; The CW Fall 2019 Premiere Dates
    06/17 - Netflix Gets Funny with Pranks with Stranger Things Star; Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba Series Gets 2nd Season
    06/16 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of June 17, 2019)
    06/15 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Fall Premiere Dates for CBS; CBS and Viacom in Merger Talks Yet Again
    06/14 - Fri-Yay: Reaction to The Good Place Ending; Antenna TV Brings Back Webster, What's Happening!! and What's Happening Now!!
    06/13 - New Chip 'n' Dale Coming to Disney+ in 2020; Inside the Actors Studio Moves to Ovation and Starts with Sitcom-Themed Show
    06/12 - TBS Celebrates Seinfeld's 30th Anniversary; Netflix Renews Russian Doll for Season 2
    06/11 - Netflix Series Adds Rising Star to New Series; Corporate Gets 3rd and Final Season
    06/10 - Comedy Central Schedules Lights Out with David Spade; NBC's The Good Place to End After Season 4
    06/09 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of June 10, 2019)
    06/08 - SitcomsOnline Digest: A Sequel for Punky Brewster?; The Good Place Coming to an End After Fourth Season
    06/07 - Fri-Yay: 2019 New Sitcoms; Hulu Acquires Popular Comedy Letterkenny
    06/06 - Comedy Central to Roast Alec Baldwin; Christmas in July on Hallmark
    06/05 - CBS All Access Sets Aug. 15 for Why Women Kill; Dead to Me Gets Second Season

    06/04 - The CW's Late Summer 2019 Schedule; Tracy Morgan Hosts the 2019 ESPYs on ABC
    06/03 - Comedy Central Summer Stunts Include The Cleveland Show; Netflix's GLOW Returns August 9
    06/02 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of June 3, 2019)

    06/01 - SitcomsOnline Digest: ABC Gives Greenlight to Nate Bargatze Comedy Pilot; NBC Cancels Pair of Sitcoms
    05/31 - Fri-Yay: NBC Cancels AP Bio Just As It Was Finding Its Stride; Showtime Orders Work in Progress
    05/30 - Final Space Returns for Season 2 But on Adult Swim; Cast Set for All That Revival on Nickelodeon
    05/29 - HBO's Divorce Starring Sarah Jessica Parker Returns July 1; Jimmy Kimmel Comedy Specials Return for 12th Straight Year Before NBA Finals Games
    05/28 - 2019 The Summer of MeTV Schedule; Disney Gets 2nd Season of Sydney to the Max
    05/27 - Memorial Day 2019 TV Marathons
    05/26 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of May 27, 2019)
    05/25 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Late Night Tops Ratings for the Season; FXX Announces Archer After Hours
    05/24 - Fri-Yay: Live in Front of a Studio Audience Recap; Mario Lopez Produced Sitcom Coming to Netflix
    05/23 - Orange Is the New Black Returns for Final Season in July; Lifetime Gets More Book to Screen Movies This Summer
    05/22 - Los Espookys Premieres June 14 on HBO; NBC's 5th Annual Red Nose Day Special Brings Out the Stars
    05/21 - Nightline Primetime Special Profiles All in the Family & The Jeffersons; Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader Premieres June 10 on Nick
    05/20 - Comedy Central Heads to the South Side This July; Catch the Big Bang Finale Again Tonight
    05/19 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of May 20, 2019)