Netflix is an unstoppable bullet train catapulting forward without any sign of stopping. We, the addicted passengers, have yet to get off. The ride has been way too much fun.
What’s fascinating is the wide range of material and genres that Netflix has covered on this journey. We’ve seen hard-hitting dramas, stand-up comedy specials and jaw-dropping documentaries that make us question the U.S. justice system in an internet-nerd fury – I’m looking at you, Making a Murderer.
In continuing to keep us on our toes, Netflix released their newest offering, Chelsea Does, which is a four-part comedic documentary series that follows the crass comedian and former talk-show host Chelsea Handler.
Similar to my review of Master of None, I wish to study and review the first episode as an introduction to the series. Next week, I plan to follow-up this review with a comprehensive critique of the season in its entirety. This practice is merely a front to ensure that I don’t run out of ideas and that the editors at Arthur keep me on staff.
You’ll know it’s getting bad if I decide to review one episode each week. Here’s hoping it doesn’t get to that.
Those of you that are familiar with Handler and her program Chelsea Lately will know that she is the backyard wrestler comedy. She operates on a blunt and no-holds-barred brand of ha-ha that inspires uncomfortable and cringe-worthy situations.
Some may find it crude, but it is an approach that I find hilarious, especially when she questions celebrities who aren’t used to her gut-punch and often sexually charged fare.
Chelsea Does operates on a completely different approach. The show, which is divided into four parts, takes Handler into different situations that are framed by a particular theme.
The first episode is about marriage, which already had me buzzing with excitement given that she has never been married, has particularly strong views on the subject, and has been known to date a slew of interesting and questionable characters – 50 Cent being one of them. Not to mention, given 40 years, I was curious if the show would venture past comedy and into drama.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Imagine a woman, born and raised in New Jersey, takes her eventual rise to fame in Los Angeles with her in-your-face honesty in tow – and then drop her into the mix with a slew of Average Joes who have no idea what hit them, and you’ve found the recipe that makes this show work so well.
But there is heart-warming charm that comes with the mix as well, which seems to be in contrast to Handler’s brand – however, it complements her humanity and the sensitive topic in which she deals with her dysfunctional relationships and loneliness.
The episode follows Handler as she works with professional matchmakers and clinical therapists to find the root of her difficulties, and as she interviews a range of couples – gay, widowed, non-monogamous and absurd.
She even interviews her own father to learn more about herself and her father’s perception of her chances of marriage, but also on the relationship her parents shared. It’s simultaneously hilarious and touching, which seems to be a trend in the show thus far.
Chelsea even sits down with one of her first boyfriends, and both are honest in how their relationship worked out in the past and what they thought of each other at the time.
In many of the interviews, with her friends, lovers or family, all can agree that given Chelsea’s intense nature, that finding a proper suitor will be difficult for her.
Though she laughs, it’s obvious that Chelsea has been handed information that she’s always known, but has struggled to face. The comedian who thrives in honesty seems to be hurt by it, and not only do we feel for her, but we laugh at her as well. It’s both vicious and touching.
The most amusing, though, is Handler’s penchant to say the first thing that comes to her mind. Not only does it empower the episode and amusingly alienate her subjects – many of whom believe some of their odd inclinations are normal – but it also shows that we are in the hands of someone who will say anything and everything not to get a laugh because it is exactly what she is thinking of at the moment.
This results in nervous laughter, but it is a unique brand of laughter nonetheless.
With that being said, the next three episodes seem to be another interesting study of how Handler reacts by throwing herself into more fish-out-of-water scenarios.
Not only do I expect her to come out swinging, saying whatever she thinks and thriving in her honesty, but I hope that – like this episode – it comes with the humility that throws her under the bus and acknowledges her flaws. Nothing and no one, including Chelsea, is safe.