pop culture, Review, television

REVIEW—CHELSEA & THE FUTURE OF THE TALK SHOW

Season 1, Episode 1

Grade: A

When you’re a comedy kid growing up, you study comedians. When you’re an unfunny comedy kid, you really study comedians. When I was a kid, I watched clips of Dane Cook obsessively—relax, this was when we were all on that Cook train, you liars—and then I moved on to people like Mike Birbiglia, Demetri Martin, Jim Gaffigan, Loni Love, Amy Schumer, Gabriel Iglesias, Tina Fey and Bo Burnham. But a huge influence on my comedy and my writing and my funniness—besides Lorelai Gilmore—was Chelsea Handler.

After Chelsea Lately ended, Chelsea Handler went soul-searching. She did a bunch of standups—Uganda Be Kidding Me—and books—Uganda Be Kidding Me—and then the hilarious and insightful docuseries Chelsea Does.

And more than anything else, her new Netflix “talk show”, Chelsea, feels like a natural extension of Chelsea Does, which in turns is a natural extension of Chelsea Handler in a way that Chelsea Lately never was. During Lately, you could always feel the tension, the vague bitterness that Chelsea had towards E! and the sense of a caged tiger pacing behind bars.

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Source: Netflix

Chelsea made no bones about the fact that she kinda fucking hated E! and felt like an idiot doing Lately. And something she made very clear on the first episode of Chelsea, centered around education, is that she hates feeling like an idiot.

In a year of trying to “shake up” the talk show game, Chelsea manages to succeed where others have failed. And by “others” I know that you know that I’m talking about Kocktails with Khloe. Now, don’t get me wrong—I would take a bullet for Khloe Kardashian in a way that I would never for Chelsea Handler—but Kocktails felt like a total money-funded passion project, aimed at giving a new network star quality and a ratings boost.

In a similar way, Chelsea feels a little indulgent, and is the first step Netflix is taking at live-streaming rather than binge-worthy season drops. But Chelsea is smart and funny and not talking itself too seriously, whereas Kocktails always felt like it was a little too aware of the cameras. In the first episode, Chelsea does—but doesn’t—do a monologue, and sits behind a—very fancy, black—desk, turning it into a “meta, breaking the fourth wall” version of every late night talk show. And it feels almost on purpose—like Chelsea knows that she’s going to get compared to everyone else, so why not beat them to the punch?

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Source: Netflix

Some of the show was a little weird—the “Netflix University” faux-commercial was boring and didn’t feel cohesive—but Chelsea had some fucking impressive guests. Her first guest was the U.S. Secretary of Education, John King. At first, when he was testing her on basic education, it felt a little like “This is about you but it’s really about me,” but after that, the interview is actually interesting. They talk about the need for education, personal mentors, and other cool stuff. After that, Chelsea brought out Pitbull, who spent twenty minutes trying to chase down Chelsea’s dog Chunk, who was loitering in the background like a beautiful teddy bear. Pitbull is starting a charter school in Miami—Slam Academy—and continued on the theme of “teacher mentors.”

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Source: Netflix

I think this could really be Chelsea’s strong suit. Since it’s a three-times-a-week digital stream, rather than doing “trending topics” like Lately, Chelsea could do much better by connecting pop culture to a larger episodic theme, similar to each documentary of Chelsea Does. Like, who the fuck would’ve known that Pitbull would’ve started a charter school? And also how he got his nickname “Mr. Worldwide?” It’s cool.

Side bar: they did that thing I hate, which is having the first guest sit in on the second guest’s interview. You had the U.S. Secretary of Education watching Pitbull try to be BFFs with a dog. It always seems so awkward, like when Bill O’Reilly had to stay while Jimmy Fallon interviewed Lorde, and I was like, “Who tf is Bill O’Reilly?” and my mom was like, “Who tfudge is Lorde?”

After Pitbull went back to his kennel—someone stop me, please—Chelsea brought out Drew Barrymore. She began by talking about how she, like Chelsea, didn’t really receive an education, but how that drives her. She read the dictionary as a kid, which is the ultimate nerd-out. The conversation veers towards Drew’s divorce, which was surprisingly honest and raw and real—a testament to the intimacy of the stream—and then how she wants to be a cheerleader for women by discussing divorce, and raise her daughters to be awesome women. The interview felt fun and fresh, unlike when talk shows bring on guests who are forced to hawk their latest project.

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Source: Netflix

In one episode, Chelsea made me do what Kocktails couldn’t accomplish in twelve—make me want to keep watching. I want to see what the next topic is, and who she brings on. I want to see what this turns into.

Keep on, keeping on Chelsea.

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Review, Things I Like

REVIEW: KOCKTAILS WITH KHLOE

Grade: B-

I made a conscious effort to enjoy Kocktails With Khloe and even by repeating, “You like the Kardashians, you like the Kardashians,” I still kept checking the time left on the episode because it’s kind of a trainwreck.

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Kocktails doesn’t have a traditional camera set-up. It’s more of a hidden-in-the-walls, rigged to the ceiling situation, which feels about as intimate as watching someone in the locker room. Not that I’ve ever done that.

The guests come in through the front door—Kym Whitley, Brandi Glanville, and Aisha Tyler. And there’s a hot bartender who’s making custom drinks and his name is Sharone which is confusing to me but I’m not gonna pursue it.

Since the set is a “house” and the guests come through the front door, I have a few questions. Do they have coats? Where does the front door go to? Do they have to wipe their feet?

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The conversation is a little stilted and uncomfortable, and it’s mostly just Kym hitting on Sharone—who is married with kids—and Brandi Glanville refuses to talk about her ex-husband’s wife Leann Rimes. Brandi Glanville also makes me uncomfortable because she has total shark-eyes and I think she’s unpredictable, like she’s going to reach through the screen and grab my throat. Also later on she admitted to a threesome, so why can’t you give me the gossip about you and Leann?? Also they never even talk about how Brandi fell off a hoverboard. Literally stop avoiding all the things I care about.

Aisha Tyler is hands-down awesome—even when casually promoting her new range of alcohol (how koincidental)—and after a while, the awkwardness begins to dissipate. They do a lot of moving around—kitchen counter to couch to round table—so I want to go on the show just to get a major workout. And they play a lot of physical games—hop on one foot if you’ve ever…xyz or Brandi dancing like a ballerina as she admits to a threesome—and play “Would Or Wouldn’t Bang” which is only slightly more uncomfortable than watching a couple fight in the grocery store.

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It also feels a little bit forced in the “girl talk” sections when Khloe is forcibly cackling when talking about wanting to bang Michael Fassbender. Like I wanna bang him too, but ladeez please.

Also omg Kendall Jenner was there. I had literally forgotten that until just now because she looked so uncomfortable. I mean, her outfit was amazing, but you could tell that Khloe pulled some sort of IOU to get her there.

Snoop Dogg shows up, because…I’m not sure why. The only thing I knew is that he doesn’t smoke pot while he coaches boys’ baseball and that he had no idea he was in Straight Outta Compton until he was in the theater watching the movie and saw someone playing him.

Also I learned that when Khloe gets to drinking, she becomes Khlomoney. Which is uncomfortable.

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Some of the conversations are totally amazing—like Khloe talking about the double-standard of dating while separated, and Aisha and Kym talking about black women being represented in the media.

I think that the format leaves a lot to be desired, but that can always be reworked. Like, because it’s a talk show and it’s discussion-based, sometimes it can feel like it drags on. And I don’t think FYI wants me to be eighteen minutes in and feeling like it’s been forty minutes. With a little more structure—even though they “breaking the mold by changing up the late night format”—I think that Kocktails could actually be funny. Khloe is the most outspoken and doesn’t do that whole “whisper-talk” thing, so I think that she could really have a career out of interviewing people.

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