Talk shows are fun-filled, sketch-ridden, sometimes musical, often censored programs that air every weekday or night on a major network. But Chelsea Handler and Netflix changed our entire perception of the talk show format with
While a handful of recurring segments have emerged from the first 15 episodes, like dinner party discussions in Handler’s lavish home, and a bit on grammar lessons (“irregardless, people, is not a word!), the show doesn’t follow a clear-cut format. In one episode, Handler has a single guest in the studio, then airs a series of sketches. In another, she discusses a hot topic, like the legalization of marijuana, with several guests. Then, she’s interviewing the elderly in Florida about the presidential candidates, and chatting with Chris Anderson to understand what it takes to deliver a successful TED Talk. By contrast, most talk shows follow a set formula: opening monologue, sketches, sit-down interview, musical performance, interspersed with commercial breaks until the episode is tied up in a nice bow in an exact 60-minute time frame. The freedom to develop episodes without the need for commercial breaks, or conforming to a specific length, allows for variance we’ve never seen on traditional television. Episodes of is no format Chelsea thus far have run anywhere from 27 to 37 minutes in length. Netflix
A unique melding of raunchiness and useful information
While constant cursing and drug references are par for the course, dig deeper and you’ll find some actual educational content served up in a palatable format. Guests have included Gavin Newsom, the Lt. Governor of California, Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj, and Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau. And while they might appear squirmy when faced with the brazen Handler, the result is that real issues are presented in a unique and candid way. For example, in one episode, Handler interviews MSNBC’s Jacob Soboroff to gain a better understanding of superdelegates. One might argue it’s a condescending way to spoon-feed less-educated viewers. But arguably so was Academy Award-winning movie The Big Short, which uses analogies, simplification, and hot girls in bathtubs to help the everyman gain a better understand of the subprime mortgage collapse. “I still want to be an idiot,” Handler joked in a recent Recode Decode podcast, “but I want to give information in a fun way, and I want to do something a little more worldly.” Netflix
It’s refreshingly real and relateable
There’s no agenda to appease networks or studios, which means Handler doesn’t have to bat an eye when admitting she hasn’t seen Captain America: Civil War before introducing her guest, Chadwick Boseman, who plays Black Panther in the box office hit film. It’s a departure from the cookie cutter interview format, where the host almost always gushes over the actor and his performance (perhaps David Letterman excepted, though he is sadly no longer on television.) Adding to this, rather than sit down with the cast in studio, Handler hosts a dinner party with several members of the movie’s cast, including Captain America himself Chris Evans, to talk about the movie, comic books, and superhero culture on the whole. Netflix
She gets personal
Most talk show hosts give viewers a little glimpse into their personal lives. Yet somehow, seeing Handler’s portly, equally brash, father, or her 12-year-old niece learn about waitressing in the restaurant where the comedian worked before breaking onto the television scene, seems different. In the studio, Handler's beloved dog Chunk is also seen roaming around the stage as she interviews guests. It adds a level of authenticity not typically seen in a talk show, but that somehow seems acceptable beyond the realm of network television. Netflix
With any network talk show like The Tonight Show or Jimmy Kimmel Live!, even the most seemingly tame commentary is bleeped out. With Chelsea, the 100%, no-holds-barred formula allows for more candid conversations that don’t appear contrived or rehearsed, and without self or network censorship. Some of the best moments in talk show history have, after all, come about thanks to guests going "off script.” And those moments have been few and far between because of the level of censorship. Netflix
It’s still timely
The very nature of Netflix means viewers can effectively watch at their own pace, a departure from the typical talk show which relies on nearly up-to-the-minute headlines to deliver timely monologues and jokes, and book appropriate YouTube sensations and other guests. But there’s still a level of timeliness to the show that suggests Netflix’s hope that subscribers will watch it daily, or at least binge episodes each week. An episode’s material won’t surpass its "best before" date, so to speak, should someone wait a few weeks before catching up. This could be to the show’s detriment: imagine if Trump dropped out of the presidential race this morning and Handler didn’t joke about it in the “day’s” episode because it was actually filmed 24 hours earlier? But this also unshackles the talk show format from the current events mantra that has left many a joke-writer scrambling at the last minute to deliver a witty one-liner. Netflix
The viral element is gone
Talk shows have come to rely on the viral nature of comedic segments to gain exposure. With Chelsea, viral-worthy segments arguably have a longer shelf-life. When the latest Carpool Karaoke segment airs on The Late Late Show with James Corden, chances are it will receive most of its online views the moment it’s posted on YouTube - the day after it airs on TV. While it’s too soon to tell, because there’s no set timeframe for when subscribers decide to watch episodes of Chelsea, a viral-worthy segment, like Megan Fox getting creepily astrological as she interprets Handler’s chart, can enjoy a steady stream of views. This might mean fewer overall views, but also greater exposure over a longer period of time. Netflix Chelsea, the first weekly talk show for a streaming provider.
Irreverent, absent of boundaries or censors,
Chelsea, which premiered last month on Netflix, breaks from the grip of traditional network television. Segments range from casual sit-down interviews with celebrities and political figures, to comedy sketches, monologues, dinner parties, and humorous, investigative segments filmed all over the world. You never know what you’re going to get with each episode.
Chelsea episode is made available to Netflix subscribers in 190 countries every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.