It is officially the end for Chelsea Handler‘s late-night run on E!. The network, which had kept quiet amidst the frenzy of speculation that Handler would be leaving, fueled by the host’s own comments, announced today that Handler’s Chelsea Lately will air a live hourlong series finale on August 26. Handler’s last telecast will be preceded by a month-long farewell highlighting the show’s seven-year run.“We are very proud of Chelsea Lately’s long-running success and the unique space that the series carved out in late night television,” said E! president Suzanne Kolb. “Chelsea brought a distinct voice to late night with her acerbic wit and fearless commentary and we look forward to providing fans with a memorable send-off that lives up to that tradition.” The end of Chelsea Lately will come a few months before Handler’s contract expires at the end of the year. “I myself am more surprised than anyone that I was able to hold down a job for seven years, and it was a fantastic seven years,” said Handler. “I will always look back at my time on E! as most people look back at their time in college. I’m glad I went.”
Chelsea Lately was developed and launched by the previous E! regime led by Ted Harbert when the network was part of Comcast. Chelsea Lately‘s ratings have slid lately. Between 2010, the year before her last renegotiation with E!, and 2013, the show’s viewership has dropped 32% to 572,000, with the declines extending into 2014.
Still, Chelsea Lately has been part of E!’s legacy, the only late-night show hosted by a woman and the first successful traditional late-night talker to launch outside of the broadcast networks. (Comedy Central’s The Daily Show had been framed more like a fake news telecast, gradually expanding its talk show quotient.) Unlike The Tonight Show, Late Night or The Daily Show, which are established franchises that have gone through multiple hosts, Chelsea Lately and TBS’ Conan are built around the hosts, carry their names and are produced by them, making it impossible for the shows to continue if the hosts leave, as would be the case with Handler.
Landing a new gig won’t be without challenges for Handler. While most late-night talk show hosts have built likeable personas, Handler is outspoken, brash and racy, just like her edgy comedy brand. Her combativeness was on display during a very contentious interview with Piers Morgan earlier this year, and she called E! “a sad, sad place to live” and “a failure” on The Howard Stern Show. That makes Handler better suited for a cable network or digital platform than broadcast syndication. She had publicly suggested Netflix as a potential new home should she leaves E!, and there had been speculation about a potential deal there.
FX/FXX has been without a late-night franchise after the cancellation of Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell and too met with the comedienne. There was a vacancy at Comedy Central with the pending departure of Stephen Colbert, which was quickly filled by Larry Wilmore. CBS, which has an opening at 12:30 AM, went out to say publicly that it is not considering Handler. Handler’s very high price point would likely make her show prohibitive for smaller cable networks such as comedy-centered IFC.