If you’re one of two readers who checked out my review for the first episode of Chelsea Does, Netflix’s newest series, you’ll know that I was very impressed with Chelsea Handler’s introductory outing. The four-part documentary series organized into four different subjects – marriage, Silicon Valley, race, and drugs – is not only thoroughly consistent, but also inspires both laughter and an in-depth analysis of the topic at hand. If anything, it’s hard to know if this is on Handler’s part or if she’s simply the amusing figurehead for a talented and knowledgeable production team. Handler loves playing the fool.
Where “Marriage” primarily focused on the different relationships that a slew of Americans experienced, along with Handler’s haphazard and unsuccessful dating life, the rest of the episodes are more focused on the topics at a grander and worldlier scale. Handler’s involvement is paired with her vicious honesty and crass approach, which both lightens the issue in more serious, hard-hitting moments, but also puts the subjects in amusingly uncomfortable situations. If anything, she has a brilliant sense of confidence that empowers her no-bullshit approach when it comes to asking the difficult questions. I say she hosts the next American debate series.
The two most enjoyable episodes were “Silicon Valley” and “Race”. The former was the most laughable of the four, whereas the latter was the most serious and eye-opening. The first sees Handler exploring the hub of the computer world to pitch her own app, researching her way through town and interviewing whoever has the patience to bear her impatience handling and understanding technology.
What’s most amusing in the episode is how she deals with a neuroscientist and a handful of developers who seem frustrated by her innate ability to control and use whatever they’re showing her. It seems she is cursed with an electromagnetic pulse that renders any tech she touches as completely useless.
There’s some skillful storytelling at play here. Each episode starts viewers off with a very basic introduction of the topic, but in exploring it we come to learn why Handler deems the subject important and we are catapulted into much deeper and common issues. “Silicon Valley” not only explores the tech world, but also discusses whether or not we’ve become dependent on the devices and if they’re affecting our focus and inhibiting human connection. “Drugs” takes a more personal spin, questioning if Handler may actually have a drug and alcohol problem.
“Race” is the most potent of episodes, perfectly balancing the humour and appreciation for the topic. The episode stems from Handler’s belief that racism can be funny if it takes a no-holds-barred approach and if no ethnicity is safe. She takes those views and travels across the United States, spending most of her time in the South, where this topic is still highly controversial.
Some of the highlights include her confronting an incredibly religious member of the community who is blatant in his views, with Handler ensuring that her opinions about him and his shallow views are known. Another is a meeting she holds with a boardroom filled with cultural representatives who protect the public and televised perception of their ethnic minority. Her honest brand of comedy is at full effect here, and you can’t help but laugh and agree with her.
There’s a lot to like with Chelsea Does – not only because Handler asks the questions that we’ve all wanted to ask, and does so with pride, but also for the fact that she has no shame in who she is and how she handles a given situation. It’s wholly charming. If anything, the “Drugs” episode is a little lackluster and is the weakest in terms of its argument.
The episode seems to be the most fabricated of the four, which weakens both the humour and the attempted message, but does little to take away from the combined strength of each of the episodes in unison.