In “Are You There, Chelsea?” — the new sitcom based on Chelsea Handler’s best-selling books — Laura Prepon plays Chelsea Handler and Chelsea Handler plays her sister Sloan. In real life, she isn’t actually named Sloan — but that was changed, the comedian says, “for legal reasons, so that my own family can’t sue me.” Got that?

“I’ve been living this life for a long time, and I’m over myself. And it’s a pleasure to play my sister, because everything I’ve been accusing her of my whole life, I can now re-enact before her eyes. She’s thrilled, surprisingly,” Handler said while promoting the sitcom at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif., last week. “But, yeah. It’s a lot more fun for me to play her than it would be to play myself. It’s a lot more challenging anyway.”

“Challenging” is a good word to describe the sitcom and its place on broadcast television — like most of Handler’s material, the pilot is heavy on raunchy sex jokes and references to drinking.

Drinking a lot. The title of the show, in fact, used to be “Are You There, Vodka?” “Well, some people like tequila, you know. Some people like beer. Not everybody likes vodka,” Prepon joked about the title change.

 

“We don’t want to discriminate,” Handler added, then more seriously said, “We just thought ‘Are You There, Chelsea?’ is a really kind of play on ‘Am I there? What am I thinking?’”

That’s exactly what Chelsea asks herself in the pilot, which opens with the character getting a DUI and realizing she’s got to make some changes in her life.

“You realize there are some consequences to things that you do,” Prepon said. “[Chelsea] is ballsy and brash and not PC, and people are gonna love that about her, because I think that people relate to flawed characters. You know, nobody’s perfect.”

How real-to-life is “Chelsea”?

“I was probably angrier than she is in the show, which we thought wasn’t palatable,” Handler said of sitcom’s Chelsea.



“I went through my 20s in a way that not a lot of people do. I kind of barreled through them with no rhyme or reason or repercussions for anything. And so there’s definitely an essence of that. She’s not gonna be a caricature of me. We all wanted to give Laura license to make the character as great as she could, and she has.”

For more updates from the Television Critics Association follow Amber Ray on Twitter @amberatmetro.

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