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October 24, 2014

Chelsea Handler, Joan Rivers and Joel McHale? Yes, Please!

by Stephanie Earp, posted Nov 29th 2010 7:00PM
I don't wish to sound less than patriotic, but there are certain things our American cousins enjoy which we here in Canada must do without. An affordable and reliable postal system for example. Black Friday shopping. And until today, the E! Channel.

Some of these are easier to live without than others. Who really needs snail mail anyway? And it would take one hell of a sale to make a dent in our enormous sales taxes. But living without the E! Channel means that rap songs have less meaning, that the covers of People and US Weekly magazines are incomprehensible, and that we think of Chelsea Handler primarily as an author. It's intolerable to wallow in such ignorance and I'm glad something is finally being done about it.

Thanks to my status as a big shot TV writer (that's how you guys think of me, right?) I was sent a case of DVDs of E! shows to review in time for this glorious event, and having gorged myself on them, I have come to a strange conclusion: the E! channel is basically the most engaging version of a 'women's channel' I've seen. Here in Canada, we have a slew of cable and satellite channels aimed at the vagina-having half of us, and they mostly feature design and food shows, with endless repeats of 'Bridget Jones' and 'The Notebook' thrown in. I presume the U.S has its equivalents. And while there's nothing wrong with the occasional chick flick, these 'nets offer a very limited idea of womanhood -- one in which comedy takes a serious backseat to star-crossed romances and finding the perfect sofa.

I dearly love to laugh, and as such will happily watch the parade of fart jokes that pepper 'Family Guy' and 'South Park,' the bluff political humour of Sirs Stewart and Colbert, and the situational jokes of '30 Rock' and 'Modern Family' -- but none of them offer a distinctly female humor (with the exception of Liz Lemon. I bet Liz watches the E! Channel and laughs). The three comedy shows on E! make fun of things that are traditionally the domain of women: celebrities, fashion and talk shows.

Allow me to introduce you to Chelsea Handler, if you don't already know about her. I discovered her through one of her books, "My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands" which I highly recommend. Chelsea is a blond, busty, Jewish stand-up comic who skewers the very celebs E! covers on her show 'Chelsea Lately.' She is incredibly frank: she loves vodka, she is pretty easy when she's had some, and she has no shame about it. She is basically the next Joan Rivers.



Which brings me to Joan Rivers and 'Fashion Police.' I know the brand through the back pages of People Magazine, and the show is like sitting in on an editor's meeting for those pages. Joan and a panel of quasi-celebs (the most recognizable is Kelly Osbourne, who is too nice to really help the show much) tear into the best and worst dressed celebs of the week. One segment is actually called 'Starlet or Streetwalker.' I think you can imagine how this plays out without my help. It is your meanest, funniest thoughts about lunatic fashion, spoken aloud by one of the funniest women around.

Finally, there's 'The Soup' with Joel McHale ('Community') which has had buzz for years. It's actually my least favorite of the three, but I can see the appeal. It's basically the 'moment of zen' segment from 'The Daily Show' but with smart commentary, and drawn entirely from daytime and late-night talk shows.

But let's get to the heart of the situation, shall we? The E! Channel invented the Kardashians -- first Kim, then Kourtney and Khloe, and there are still two more daughters to exploit once they grow up. I've been enraged by the endless tabloid covers featuring the dramatic adventures of these sisters because I had no idea what was going on. Even after seeing a single episode of 'Keeping Up with the Kardashians,' I can't say I totally get it.

This show is a soap opera, plain and simple, except with better acting (just barely). The women are very pretty and they have poor taste in men. They get ominous warnings and they ignore them. One even had a baby -- on screen! Kourtney literally pulls the baby out of herself on camera! (I just wonder if they'll be able to miraculously age the baby like they do in regular soap operas.) This show will get burned off pretty quickly, with mini-marathons on Monday nights, so that we Canucks will be ready when the spin-off, 'Kourtney and Kim Take New York,' debuts in January.



On the lighter side of things, there's 'Kendra,' another reality-soap, this one following a former professional girlfriend to Hugh Hefner through her new life as wife and mother. This show gets very complex when you think about it too much. The credit sequence makes it fairly clear we're supposed to be laughing at silly bimbette Kendra, but other sequences ask us to take her seriously. And why not? In this age of normalized porn, is Kendra's former occupation that out there? Although it does get somewhat ridiculous when her football player husband gets upset at the idea of a doctor touching his wife's lady parts. He does know how she made her living right?

The bimbette theme continues through two more shows I did not like. 'Bridalplasty' has women competing in challenges to win various plastic surgery procedures before they get married. It's fairly gross. But if you ever stop to wonder why these women think this is going to help them, you can just watch 'Married to Rock,' which follows the inflatable wives of various washed-up older rock stars through the trials of trying to keep their husbands so sexually exhausted that they don't look at groupies. I may not like the women of these shows very much, but I don't like the women on most of the decor, wedding and baby shows either. At least E!'s reality line-up offers an alternative view of being a woman -- and one that takes into account the not-so-subtle creep of plastic surgery and pornography into the mainstream.

And anything that gives Chelsea, Joan and Joel more material, I'm all for it.

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The Deej

I for one am celebrating the return of The Soup. We got a little bit when the few stations that Global dropped temporarily turned into E! and then it was gone.

November 30 2010 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chisme

Chelsea is not a 'Jewish' comic- she is 1/2 Jewish and not on her mother's side. She considers herself 1/2 a Jew and says it all the time. I wouldn't label her a Jewish comic.

November 29 2010 at 10:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to chisme's comment
Scott K

It's also a bit of a stretch to call her a comic.

November 30 2010 at 1:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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