Chelsea Handler has signed a first-look deal with Universal Television and Universal Television Alternative Studio. The move brings the comic back into the NBCUniversal fold following the cancellation of her much-hyped Netflix talk show last year.
Under the new agreement, Handler will develop and produce scripted and unscripted programming for the studios.
“Chelsea’s singular voice has long stood out among a crowded TV landscape, and we’re excited that she is bringing her unbridled creativity and energy to our studio,” said Universal TV president Pearlena Igbokwe. “We look forward to the many projects to come with Chelsea’s signature flair.”
Universal TV Alternative Studio president Meredith Ahr added, “Chelsea has the rare ability of making you truly think while making you laugh. She is bursting with ideas, and we can’t wait to tap into the unscripted side of Chelsea’s imagination.”
Handler is executive producing the upcoming scripted series “Unspeakable” for Hulu and drama “I Hate the Internet” for TNT.
“I’ve spent most of my life telling personal stories about myself,” Handler said. “Whether it’s been through comedy or books, everything has been about my life. I’m excited to have this opportunity to work with NBCUniversal and put my focus and energy into telling other people’s stories and developing entertaining content all around.”
In October, Netflix canceled Handler’s talker “Chelsea” after two seasons. The series was the streaming service’s first foray into the talk-show format, but was troubled from early on, jettisoning its showrunner early in the first season and undergoing a significant format change in the second that saw the number and frequency of episodes scaled back. None of the tinkering appeared to work, as the show failed to capture buzz.
Handler signed a deal with Netflix in 2014 that covered the talk show and several reality-style documentaries. The move was hailed at the time as a major step for Netflix and for Handler, who had departed her longtime home at NBCUniversal-owned cable channel E! in dramatic fashion. Handler hosted the late-night series “Chelsea Lately” on E! from 2007 to 2014, but repeatedly criticized the network in the months leading up to her show’s end, and continued to do so long after, saying of E! as recently as 2016, “You’re a reflection of the company you keep, and I wasn’t impressed with anybody. The people I was working with on the network side, they never could think big. I just wanted to leave, to be somewhere else.”
Handler is represented by UTA, Irving Azoff and attorney Craig Jacobson.