In a deal announced today that is likely to be the first of its kind, Chelsea Handler, host of E!’s surprisingly competitive late night show “Chelsea Lately,” will be bringing her irreverent brand of comedy to Netflix. Recent shake-ups in late night television have left critics wondering where Handler might fit in after it was announced that she would be leaving her show behind when her contract with the E! Network expires at the end of August. Handler has been seen as a contender for various late night desks at major networks, including those recently vacated by Jimmy Fallon and Craig Ferguson.
Very little information has been leaked about the format of Handler’s new show, which is likely to be released en masse like all of Netflix’s original programming. The show is said to include an “updated format” that will incorporate Handler’s strongest assets, saucy celebrity interviews and unfiltered commentary on the pop culture news of the day.
Bringing a show like Handler’s to the unfiltered and binge-friendly environment of Netflix could mean big changes to the tried and true late night format that has remained largely the same since the days of Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show.” Handler has indicated that she was looking for a more dynamic partner than traditional television to help her produce the kind of programming the suits her often outrageous sensibilities.
“If I was going to continue working in this industry, I knew I had to do something outside the box to keep myself interested. I wanted to sit with the cool kids at lunch so I approached Netflix to make sure they were as cool as I thought they were, and when I confirmed my suspicions, like with any other future lover, I made my move. I’m more excited than I’ve been in awhile [sic], and the team at Netflix is the most forward thinking, alert group I’ve sat down with in ages. No offense to the Shahs Of Sunset,” Handler said in a Netflix press release announcing the partnership.
In addition to adopting Handler’s talk show, Netflix has also agreed to produce several other Chelsea Handler-headed projects starting in 2015. Among them, a series of four docu-comedys in which Handler will try to grapple with cultural phenomena like NASCAR, Silicon Valley, politics, and the NBA Draft. Work is also already underway to produce a TV ready version of the comedienne’s popular live comedy tour “Uganda Be Kidding Me.”
Drawing the most excitement at present is the talk of a new, Netflix-based, talk show format free from the constraints of broadcast television. The opportunities to innovate are huge, though we do wonder if you can really call it a late night show if the audience will primarily be binge watching it in a 24 hour period. One of the strengths of nightly or weekly show is the ability to respond in near real time to the events of the day. Separated from that Handler’s always salacious celebrity chat sessions might lose some of their context.
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