‘Whitney’: Chelsea Handler Is Whitney’s Not-Very-Helpful Shrink

Chelsea Handler as Whitney's psychiatrist on "Whitney" (NBC)

Chelsea Handler as Whitney's psychiatrist on "Whitney" (NBC)

Last night there was a summit of NBC’s salty female comedians, as Chelsea Handler joined Whitney Cummings on “Whitney” as the title character’s psychiatrist. What kind of psychiatrist does Chelsea make? Well, just imagine what might have happened if Handler went to medical school instead of started down the acting and stand-up comedy road, and you’ll get the idea.

That means that, even in a medium where shrinks somehow always get away with insulting their patients to their faces, Handler’s character was especially mean, keying in on every one of Whitney’s superficial flaws, like her forehead and her age. “How old are you claiming to be now?” she asks Whitney. But, then again, nastiness may be something that Whitney needs, as we delve oh so slightly into the messed up parts of her life that have gotten her to the point where she’s so marriage-averse that she freaks out over planning her friend Lily’s (Zoe Lister Jones) engagement party.

Actually, it’s kind of too bad that Handler, who will be producing and starring in “Are You There, Chelsea,” which will air after “Whitney” on Wednesdays starting in January, won’t be a recurring part of Cummings’ show. Examining Whitney’s psyche would add some much-needed depth of character to a show whose characters right now are about as deep as a puddle. Whitney has alluded to her messed up past, especially a mother who married multiple times, but the first half season hasn’t explored much of that territory.

This week’s episode approached something watchable because it wasn’t about Whitney vs. Alex (Chris D’Elia); it was about Whitney and why she is who she is. The more of that we see — and the more the side characters resemble humans with frailties instead of caricatures with sitcommy tics, which we saw some evidence of this week — the more successful this show will be. Hopefully, next week’s episode, with Jane Kaczmarek returning as Whitney’s mom and Peter Gallagher guesting as her wayward dad will help us go even a little bit deeper.

Watch the latest episode of “Whitney”:

[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/Whitney/143129/2172887259/Up-All-Night/embed 580 476]

Watch Whitney Cummings on “Chelsea Lately”:

[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/Chelsea-Lately/97581/2172444900/Chelsea-Lately%3A-Whitney-Cummings/embed 580 476]

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