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TV Column
Posted at 06:23 PM ET, 12/12/2011

Even without “vodka,” Chelsea Handler and Laura Prepon insist new sitcom is edgy


“Are You There, Chelsea?” Laura Prepon stars as Chelsea, and Chelsea Handler plays her sister, Sloan. (Michael Desmond - MICHAEL DESMOND/NBC)

The word “vodka” has been expunged from the title because it was deemed too edgy, and NBC’s Standards and Practices suits are making them rewrite portions of script after looking up the references online to figure out what the heck they mean — but viewers are really gonna love the new sitcom “Are you There, Chelsea?” because it really pushes the boundaries, star Laura Prepon and creator/star Chelsea Handler insisted Monday.

Debuting Jan. 11 and airing at 8:30 p.m., the comedy series is based on E! late night show host Handler’s books — most notably, “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea.”

But they couldn’t use “vodka” in a title, and the show has been given the less-zippy name, “Are You There, Chelsea?”

“You can’t put ‘vodka’ in the title for network purposes, so I thought ‘Are You There, Chelsea?’ was a funny play on the fact that I’m not playing myself,” Handler told reporters and bloggers on a conference call Monday, reports The Post’s Emily Yahr.

Prepon stars in the title role, and Handler plays the Chelsea character’s born-again sister. “I thought it was a cute way to keep to the book and appease the whole anti-vodka situation,” Handler explained.

“Although there is plenty of drinking in the show — you just can’t have it in the title,” Handler assured reporters.

Prepon said she was surprised to learn the squiffy show had been scheduled to air at 8:30 p.m. because, content-wise, “we really do push the envelope.”

And, by “push the envelope” she means, “There’s some stuff we get away with for the first couple takes, and then Standards and Practices makes us rewrite them.”

“I think that people are really going to love the show because we really push the boundaries,” Prepon prattled on happily, after showing up late to the phone conference call.

So just how toned down is the show relative to Handler’s deliciously raunchy book? “They’ve gotten a little more relaxed with us, because it’s all in the name of we’re just being funny and having a good time,” Prepon said of the network’s decency police, but then noted that a Standards and Practices suit yanked a reference in a recent script — once she’d looked it up online and saw what it meant.

Sadly, Handler and Prepon took no questions about what the offending passage was. They were too busy telling Handler that their mother is one of her biggest fans, and how “starstruck” they were talking to her on an actual telephone.

In much the same way, they did not inquire as to what Handler meant by “the whole anti-vodka situation.”

Broadcast networks do not take hard-liquor/spirit ads.

The closest anyone got to probing either subject came when one reporter asked dubiously, “So it’s NOT a watered down version of the book?”

“Oh it’s very edgy,” Handler insisted.

“Yeah, we’re definitely edgy,” Prepon added.

By  |  06:23 PM ET, 12/12/2011

 
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