The popular late-night talk show host stumbled lately, making her ability to establish a personality-driven media empire less certain
Chelsea Handler's bid for world media domination has hit a few speed bumps lately.
Her NBC sitcom based on her best-selling book "Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea" is lingering near cancelation ratings. And "This Means War," a romantic comedy featuring Handler as sidekick to Reese Witherspoon, crashed at the box office.
These are rare missteps for the host of the popular E! late-night talk show, "Chelsea Lately," who has written three bestsellers in addition to "Are You There, Vodka?" and is the only female host of the MTV Video Music Awards since 1994.
Before her latest stumbles, mass cross-media success seemed imminent for the comic, known for her raunchy, irreverent humor. Now her ability to establish a personality-driven media empire is becoming less certain.
One thing her NBC sitcom "Are You There, Chelsea?" is missing? Chelsea being Chelsea. Instead of being front and center in a project based on her own bestselling book about her own life, Handler plays second banana to Laura Prepon.
Prepon plays a younger version of Handler, while Handler plays her own sister.
Another thing missing? Viewers. Though the sitcom debuted in January with 6.4 million viewers, it lost 2 million sets of eyes by week two, and has settled in on an average of 4.7 million viewers.
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NBC Universal has sometimes used E! as almost a farm team for NBC talent: E! News anchor Ryan Seacrest may join "Today." Joel McHale hosted "The Soup" for five years before "Community" debuted. But Handler still has yet to prove herself ready for the broadcast network — just as McHale's "Community" has fallen to low, "Are You There, Chelsea?"-ish numbers.
And while Handler admittedly was only a supporting player in "This Means War," ads keyed on her interaction with Witherspoon in addition to the romantic triangle between Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy. The movie has made $42.3 million domestically.
Of course, the NBC show, on which Handler is also an executive producer, is not a total loss yet. "Are You There" has improved NBC's timeslot ratings 14 percent versus last season, and, like many NBC shows, even the lower-rated ones, "Are You There" boasts an upscale viewership.
"Given the competition in the time period and its lead-in, we believe the show is performing solidly," an NBC executive told TheWrap.
Also read: Chelsea Handler: 'I Like My E! Show. I Like Being Under the Radar'
The good news: "Chelsea Lately" — and its spin-off/spoof series "After Lately" — remains so influential in late-night that VH1 recently hired Jenny McCarthy to host a late-night talk show in an effort to spark its own Handler-esque franchise.
As for Q scores — those indicators of a celebrity's or TV series' popularity — "Lately" earned a positive Q score of 25 and a negative Q score is 18. The average Q scores for all late-night talk shows: 18 positive and 25 negative, meaning "Chelsea Lately" did hit higher in positive and lower in negative than most of her competition.
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But "Are You There, Chelsea?" doesn't fare nearly as well on overall Q score stats, earning a dismal 10 percent familiarity.
"Enough said," Q Scores company president Steven Levitt told TheWrap.
Meanwhile, Handler has roles lined up in a pair of upcoming offbeat movie comedies.
She co-stars with Johnny Knoxville in the Josh Schwartz-directed Halloween release "Fun Size," about a teen (Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice) who loses her little brother when she's forced by her mom to take him trick-or-treating. "Colbert Report" writer Max Werner wrote the script.
Handler, who was named one of Glamour magazine's Women of the Year in 2011, will also co-star with Vincent D'Onofrio and Eric Bogosian in the horror-comedy film "Mall," based on Bogosian's 2001 novel of the same name.
However, even they hit, neither movie is unlikely to enhance Handler's brash image or establish her on the big screen.