The new Netflix talk show “Chelsea” is a refreshing game changer

Chelsea Handler is a great, if totally unpredictable talk show host
Streaming Video Review by Larry Murray

There is no better example of how things are changing in the US than to watch the new talk show Chelsea, with comedian, actress, writer, television host, and producer Chelsea Handler. She hosted a late-night talk show called Chelsea Lately on the E! network from 2007 to 2014 and is back. She has teamed up with video-streaming giant Netflix to launch an all new talk show, calling it simply “Chelsea.” (To view it, go to your Netflix account and click away.)

With only six episodes aired to date (there are new streaming shows every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) I am going to call it not only a hit, but the model of what talk shows will look like in the future. No long opening monologue with witty jokes, just a quick, concise opinion on trans bathroom issues. Which bathroom should they use? “Whichever one they want,” she says simply. She doesn’t worry about alienating people, she leaves that to the suits. Smart woman.

That’s because Netflix has been breaking the traditional mold ever since they took on video stores. They single handedly put the Blockbuster chain out of business. Now the now mammoth company is beginning to devour Broadcast television with its noxious commercials and watery programming. The company is spending a billion dollars on new entertainment productions this year, and clearly not focused on the lowest common denominator that might be called WalMart America. Netflix made possible the phenomenon known as binge watching, and now the networks are rethinking their one show a week game plan and debating whether to make more than one or two episodes available on their digital websites. The world of entertainment has entered another shape shifting period.But there is one thing that they have that Netflic lacks.

Commercials. The Netflix model does not need advertisers to pay the bills. They have subscribers. A lot of them, and they judge their success not by pleasing the corporations, but by growing an international audience. That means being fast, nimble, and multilingual. And Handler has a real advantage. She is both a real American and not. Her opinions and off-beat thoughts keep the brain of viewers involved, while giving the anal retentive Bible thumpers constipation.

Christina Aguilera and Chelsea Handler sing Happy Birthday

Christina Aguilera and Chelsea Handler sing Happy Birthday

Today, for example things started off normally enough with Chelsea trying her hand at singing. Christina Aguilera gave the host a vocal lesson in how to sing “Happy Birthday” to Chelsea’s dog Chunk. Even with Aguilera’s expert help, Handler won’t win The Voice anytime soon. With middle America relaxed and assured this was going to be a nice show to watch, the mood changed when LA Galaxy Midfielder and gay rights activist Robbie Rogers joined LA Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke to talk about coming out as an athlete.

Chelsea Handler, Robbie Rogers of LA Galaxy talk athletes who are gay from Larry Murray on Vimeo.

Later in the show, the conversation turned to the harassment and demonization of gays by Putin and the sick macho Russian male culture.

Being Gay in Russia – Robbie Rogers on the World Cup from Larry Murray on Vimeo.

The show is taped on Monday, and then prepped for streaming at noon later in the week. No matter where you are in the world you can watch it. Because its political and sociological forays are cosseted in typical talk show format, censors are unlikely to glom on to it as a threat to their particular political system. Pretty much everyone, pretty much everywhere—20 languages, 50 video formats—can see each episode in less than 36 hours. Whether it succeeds will probably be a secret forever, since Netflix has never revealed viewership numbers, but given the fresh and upbeat nature of the show, it’s a real people pleaser, and should run for a very, very long time. In a format that has traditionally been the realm of Ellen, Whoopie, Rosie, Joy and Ricki, it’s a game changer.

When Chelsea Handler was free, she approached Netflix about doing a show that met her own unique perspective. We are fortunate that they agreed, as this earlier documentary clip shows.

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