In one of the most underhyped farewells in recent memory, Chelsea Handler signed off from “Chelsea Lately” Tuesday night after seven years.
The finale on E! was sparsely promoted ahead of time by the network and just so happened to arrive on a day when Emmys coverage dominated entertainment news.
But Handler, who will launch a new talk show on Netflix sometime in 2016, made the most of her under-the-radar finale. Three of her besties, Jennifer Aniston, Sandra Bullock and Mary McCormack, stopped by to stage a loving quasi-intervention for their vodka-swilling friend.
Aniston accused Handler of “stealing” her hairstyle and yoga instructor and questioned her hygiene practices. “There’s a reason your stage is so far from the audience,” she quipped, while McCormack joked that, “Never once have you let your job get in the way of your drinking problem.”
When it was Bullock’s turn to roast, she pretended to have mixed up her letter for Handler with one for infamous prankster George Clooney. “Dear George, your practical jokes are annoying,” she read aloud.
In addition to performances from Miley Cyrus and 50 Cent, the finale included a visit from fellow talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, who confronted a nude (but pixelated) Handler in the shower about why she’d never been a guest on “Chelsea Lately.” (You’ll just have to Google that one yourself.)
The farewell concluded with a star-studded spoof of the ‘80s charity anthem “We are the World,” featuring dozens of Handler’s celebrity friends --Fergie, Avril Lavigne, Gerard Butler, Bullock, Miley Cyrus and Justin Theroux, to name a few. Stefani even had a little fun at her own expense, introducing Handler as “Chelsea Hammer” -- a reference, of course, to her “Stephen Coal-bort” flub at Monday’s Emmy Awards.
“Goodbye to E!, it’s time to move on,” sang the assembled celebrities. “She wants to sing, she wants to dance and get her groove on.”
After the song, Handler ended on an earnest note. “I never really got a good chance to be serious and say ‘thank you’ and I want you to know that I am grateful for this career, thank you very much,” she said, urging viewers to donate to Miley Cyrus’ charity for homeless teenagers. “Thank you to my family and mom. I hope you’re watching me! I’ll see you on Netflix!”
It was a friendly, if conspicuously under-promoted, sendoff for Handler, who has done little to disguise her contempt for E!. She called the Kardashian-saturated network a "sad, sad place to live” in an interview with Howard Stern this year and her manager, Irving Azoff, also publicly boasted that his client was being courted by numerous suitors months before her contract was up.
Rumors swirled this spring that Handler was in talks with CBS to take over for Craig Ferguson, thanks mostly to a picture posted on the comedian’s Instagram page. In the end, Handler decided to take her boozy show to Netflix, a choice both expected and strange.
On one hand, Handler will be able to get as raunchy as she’d like at her new home, but how a topical format like a talk show will work in the context of an online streaming service whose brand is built on binge-watching is yet to be seen.