Here Comes ‘Chelsea’

Chelsea Handler, who already is making her mark on the E! network with the nightly talkshow “Chelsea Lately“ and her comedy about the making of that show “After Lately,” expands her universe exponentially tonight with the debut of a sitcom based on her writings.

“Are You There, Chelsea?” is based on the bestselling humor book of the similar name, “Are You There, Vodka? It’s me Chelsea” and though Laura Prepon plays her; Handler gets in the act by playing her older sister.

Handler, already overbooked, is cool with that, she told reporters at the TV Critics press tour this week.

“It’s a dream come true to have someone else portray me, because I’ve been living this life for a long time, and I’m over myself,” she said. “And it’s a pleasure to play my sister because everything I’ve been accusing her of my whole life, I can now re-enact before her eyes.”

“Are You There, Chelsea?” may be the first series that begins with a drunk driving arrest.

Not that they’re glorifying it. “It’s irresponsible,” Handler says. “But, I mean, the correcting your behavior is kind of the key thing. Do you do it repeatedly or do you do it once?”

In her case, she says, “I got a DUI once and I haven’t gotten once since.”

Executive producer Tom Werner, who was owner of the Red Sox during its World Series wins, says “I’ve spent my career developing shows with flawed characters.”

“You look at ‘Roseanne,’” he says, one of his sitcoms, “and this was a woman who some people thought was very abrasive.”

Referring to Handler, he says, “This is a woman who is very brave. She’s unapologetic. We talk about her in the writers’ room as being half male, half female, because she’s not sweet, but she’s a ballsy, unapologetic character who’s gonna be flawed, and I think that makes for good stories.”

Handler never considered playing herself on the show (though she appears in seven of the first 13 episodes as the sister).

“I have a job every single day and then I have another job,” Handler says. “I don’t have time to star on my own TV show. If I did, I would. I seriously, honestly don’t have the time.”

She would never quit “Chelsea Lately,” she says, because “I like my E! show. I like being under the radar.”

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