20 August 2009 | michael_the_nermal
Minor Renaissance of Late-Night Cable TV
"Chelsea Lately" is best summarized using a historical analogy (historically inaccurate though it may be; I must oversimplify for the purposes of this review): the Carolingian Empire of Charlemagne may not have been the revival of the Roman Empire in terms of presenting a complex civilization or a glorious new empire, but it was a start in the right direction after the fragmentation of Europe into barbarian kingdoms. "Chelsea Lately" is nowhere near as brilliant or illustrious as the "good ol' days" of late-night basic cable: Comedy Central's "Win Ben Stein's Money", "Mystery Science Theatre 3000", or the Kilborn/Early Stewart-era "Daily Show"; the reruns of "Taxi" on Nick-at-Nite; or the Cartoon Channel's "Space Ghost" (not to mention Fox's "Married With Children" and "Get a Life"). Still, Chelsea Handler hearkens back to the days when basic cable was worth a damn. Her round table panel is amusing enough when they spar with Chelsea over the latest no-talents populating Hollywood. Chelsea's sarcasm, blunt delivery, and earthy wit are a pleasure to watch compared with Conan O'Brien, David Letterman, and even (yes, I mean it) Jon Stewart. Chuy is excellent as the "John Everyman" sidekick who makes funny, mean-spirited comments back at Chelsea. I dare say, Chuy Bravo is a much better sidekick than Ed McMahon or Andy Richter ever were!
TV is a dismal wasteland, polluted with reality programs, left-and-right wing talking heads, UFO-conspiracy programs, and Steven Seagal movies. Chelsea Handler at least offers an amusing alternative. While not a brilliant show (some of the time it's not that funny), it's at least better than most of what's on TV. The interviews with B-list celebrities are sometimes a groan, but I prefer these to Jon Stewart fawning over politicians and pundits. Chelsea's "bad girl" image is a breath of fresh air, and oozes sexiness. I hope E! will continue to run with this show.