Once upon a time, the marriage of Netflix and original programming seemed silly. Times change, and so while the news that Chelsea Handler has signed on to host and a produce a talk show (and other projects) with the digital streaming service/budding "network" seems surprising in this moment, it is entirely possible that it could work. Netflix and Handler certainly believe it will, using the press release announcing their alliance to proclaim that the result of the deal will "revolutionize late night."
As part of the deal, Handler and Netflix will also join for a stand-up comedy special - an under-mentioned staple of Netflix's original programming output. That will debut on October 10th and it will be followed, in 2015, by four docu-comedy specials. Handler's proper talk show won't debut until "early" 2016, a gap of at least 15 months following the end of Handler's current E! show, Chelsea Lately. That gap is, of course, softened by the presence of the other content, but it still feels a bit long and it could make the roll-out of the "late night" show more challenging in that Netflix will have to, in a way, re-introduce Handler to audiences beyond their subscriber base.
Though no reason was given for the delay between shows, Handler did speak to why she chose Netflix in the release:
“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, 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.”
Details are, unfortunately and predictably vague as to the ways with which this new show will be "outside the box" but one thing is for sure, they are jailbreaking "late night" from the period of time that is late in the night. Here's Netflix's Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos:
“The Internet has disrupted many of the conventions of traditional television and together with Chelsea Handler, Netflix is looking forward to reimagining the late night talk show for the on-demand generation, starting with the late night part….”
Again, details are the opposite of plentiful right now so it's hard to comment on the validity of words like "revolutionary" and "re-imagining" when we don't know what this show is, but as Sarandos says, the internet has "disrupted" the late night model already, likely referencing the way that shows like Conan and The Tonight Show have made awesome use of viral clips and anytime viewing via on-demand. That is to say, we're wondering how Handler's show will stand-out besides the fact that it will be on-demand.
We're also wondering if the show will be released in bursts or on a daily basis and if the answer to that question will hinder Handler's ability to be topical with her humor and relevant when it comes to the guests that she brings on the show. With regard to those guests, one also wonders if Handler's ability to get the best and the brightest may be hampered by Netflix's habit of keeping ratings close to the vest - and so, studios and publicists won't have an easy way to gauge whether an appearance on Handler's show is worth as much as an appearance on one of the myriad of other late night options.
Handler was, at one time, a popular name floated in relation to some of those "other" late night jobs; specifically those over at CBS when Letterman retired and when Ferguson decided to try something else. There are any number of reasons why that alignment didn't happen, and this could very well be an amazing fit for Chandler's style - specifically in that she likely won't have to worry about being constrained in any way - but there are legitimate questions about if this "revolution" will succeed, and this is certainly not the easiest path that this talented comic and host could have chosen. While it's great that Handler found something "outside of the box" to keep her "interested," we just hope that we can say the same thing when Handler's show debuts.
The Untitled Chelsea Handler Late Night Series will debut in 2016 on Netflix.