The Pilot Pirate: “Charlie’s Angels,” “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea”


Pilot: Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea (comedy)

Writer: Julie Larson (Dharma & Greg, The Drew Carey Show, Four Kings) and Dottie Dartland Zicklin; based on Chelsea Handler’s 2008 book of the same name

Network: NBC

Logline: Inspired by Handler’s best-selling memoir, focuses on the lives of a group of twentysomethings who live and work together with a very outspoken young woman.

Cast: Laura Prepon (That ’70s Show)

The characters:

Chelsea Hanson, 26, outspoken waitress at a sports bar
Sloane Hanson, Chelsea’s born-again Christian sister
Mark, mid-20s, handsome bartender
Shoniqua, 28, assistant bar manager, smart, curvy and unapologetic
Jerry Ragusa, 45-50, owner of the bar, imposing presence, has the hots for Chelsea
Todd, 25, bar back, “little person”
Ivory, 26, Chelsea’s smart, longtime friend, second-generation Cuban American, works at a marketing agency
Jonathan, Ivory’s friend and colleague
Dee Dee, 28, Chelsea and Ivory’s and roommate
Melvin Hanson, 60, Chelsea and Sloane’s track suit-clad father

Just like her namesake, this Chelsea collects weirdos. And the pilot script for “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea” has plenty to go around. Everything here revolves around a young Chelsea (Prepon) who prays to Vodka, aka her personal God, for help after she lands in jail with a DUI. Does she give up drinking? No, she opts for the insane, namely finding an apartment that’s walking distance to her full-time job at a local sports bar.

The large and diverse cast of characters includes Ivory, Chelsea’s best friend and roommate; the sheltered and bubbly Dee Dee — who Chelsea winds up calling Dumb Dumb — and Jonathan, Ivory’s co-worker and Chelsea’s potential love interest. We also meet Chelsea’s family including her born again older sister Sloane — with the writers eyeing the real Chelsea Handler to play the small part.

The script is amazingly funny and could test the Standards & Practices Department’s limits with some of its raucous humor, like when Chelsea reacts to finding out what lies “beneath” redhead Jonathan’s pants. Handler’s unique take-no-prisoners brand of humor is on fine display in these pages. The pace is perfect and comedy unique. Characters are expertly crafted and the dialogue is unlike anything that currently exists on broadcast TV. Further, while there are a few stereotypes built in here, they’re humorously explored with sharp dialogue and free of cliché.

Casting Prepon, a comedy veteran with roles as the sarcastic Donna on Fox’s That ’70s Show and as Ted’s bitchy ex-girlfriend on CBS’ How I Met Your Mother, is an interesting choice for a project that recounts Handler’s mid-20s. The actress, who turns 31 in March, is at first glance a little older than I’d envisioned the character. The humor in the script is very young and very racy and while Prepon has the requisite sex appeal, I don’t know that she’s the right choice; after about three-quarters of the 49-page script, I kept envisioning Erin Foley in the role. She’s got the dry wit and perfect observational humor background for the part and her impeccable comic timing and brazen perspective on life is a complete match.

Pilot Pirate outlook: Pre-Prepon casting: DVR season pass worthy. Post-Prepon, worth checking out.

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