Have you seen Chelsea Lately lately?

I don’t think I’ve laughed out loud reading a book so much as I did when I read Chelsea Handler’s My Horizontal Life: a Collection of One-Night Stands. Especially the first chapter when she describes being a child and busting in on a dare on her parents when they were doing the mommy and daddy thing–priceless.
Handler’s late night talk show Chelsea Lately has been airing on E! since 2007. It was AWOL for a while in Canada when E! was abandoned by debit-ridden Canwest. Before we could get feeling too smug and superior again, CTV brought the E! brand back to Canada. Hey, seems only fair, Toronto used to ship its garbage to Detroit.
It’s almost worth letting E! back into the country just to get our daily dose of Handler. Her latest show, After Lately–a behind-the-scenes look at the misfit toys who run her talk show–premieres Sunday night at 11 p.m. ET on E!. I set up that launch in this feature for The Canadian Press.
It was an open secret that Handler used to be in a relationship with her boss, E! top executive Ted Harbert (now Chairman of NBC; Comcast owns both networks). Imagine on-air talent being involved with a network executive. I mean, doesn’t that leave them both open to charges of conflict of interest? How can a network programmer be expected to be objective when it comes to keeping their lover’s show on the air, sometimes years after its best before date? That wouldn’t have a Prairie of happening in Canada, eh?
One unforgettable TCA press tour several years ago, CBS corporate boss Les Moonves was taking questions from critics at his executive session. it was a jam packed, twice-a-year ritual, our only shot at one of the most powerful men in U.S. television.
A veteran reporter from a Philadelphia newpaper puts up her hand and boldly asked if Moonves is prepared to disavow any programming decisions connected to CBS News now that he is in a relationship with then correspondent and now Big Brother host Julie Chen.
If memory serves, this was before Moonves and Chen were officially a couple (the two have since married). Anyway, Moonves went Charlie Sheen crazy. Even his perma-tan could not hide the rage in his face. As 200 critics held their breath, the room became dead silent. (This was before Twitter or there might have been a power outtage in California.)
After what seemed like 10 minutes, Mooves said, “Gail, if you really wanted the answer to that question, why didn’t you ask me that last night when we were at dinner?”
Long story short, that was that last time Moonves bothered to face the critics in a formal session at TCA. Within a year, again, if memory serves, that reporter was off the TV beat (and the scrums have never been as fun).
The moral of the story: pulling a powerful network boss’s pants down in public requires crazy big balls.
Handler has those kind of cojones. The bonus is that she is even more fun to read than to watch on TV. (A series based on her second autobiographical book, Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, is among the current prospects at NBC.) She’d have a field day goofing on the whole Canadian talent/network executive social scene, I’m thinking.

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