Chelsea Handler is finally getting to do her kind of show.
She drives this point home in the first episode of her new Netflix talk show, Chelsea, which debuts today. In the introduction, Handler surveys her accomplishments and boasts that though she’s childless and unmarried, she’s amazing because she raised two dogs as a “wealthy, single, white female.”
With this new show, which airs Wednesday through Friday each week, Handler is reentering the late-night sphere, crafting something more like The Daily Show than her long-running E! series Chelsea Lately. There are jokes about the election and a sketch about Netflix University, featuring actual series stars like Robin Wright and Will Arnett, which leads into a touching interview with Secretary of Education John King.
Handler’s dog, Chunk, wanders into view every once in a while. Later, a second faux Netflix ad pokes fun at its algorithm and how “fucking boring” users are. Then Drew Barrymore comes out, and they drink wine with Pitbull.
It’s a more random structure than Kimmel or Fallon’s, and Handler told the New York Times that she’s been purposeful in making the series stand out and stretch beyond celebrity news: “All these shows try to start out selling something different, and ultimately all become the same, just with a different guy.”
Now we have Handler and former Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee’s new show, Full Frontal, which breaks up the grid a bit. But Chelsea is also Netflix’s big experiment in daily TV, which has the added bonus of being commercial-free. Will people want to watch this in chunks like they do other series? Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told the NYT that it’s flexible for a reason:
Most people are going to watch it a day or two later, a week or two later, or even a month or two later. And the show is built for that. Meaning that it’s topical, but it’s not a melting ice cube.
Earlier this year, Netflix debuted another project with Handler: Chelsea Does..., a four-part docuseries that found her tearing into the founder of Ashley Madison and going to Peru to vomit up a psychedelic experience. It felt more like Handler’s warm-up lap. In the lead-up to her new show, Handler did some crafty PR, too. Instagram became her public platform for testing the boundaries of censorship.
She’s testing boundaries with Chelsea, too: She mentions in episode 1 that the show is streamable in 190 countries. This means Handler is an ambassador of sorts, which is a delightful scenario if you’re familiar with her humor. According to Wired, after the show finished taping on Monday, a team started translating it to make sure nothing about Handler’s delivery was lost or softened. In episode 1, that includes explaining that she’s not doing monologues:
I know this seems like a monologue, but this is not a monologue. This is an explanation. And if you don’t know the difference then you can log out or log off or fuck off or whatever.
It’s a big gamble for Netflix, but also a welcome reprieve from the current late-night landscape, where hosts are nice and agreeable and don’t tell their viewers to fuck off.