Hey, TLC: Hitler Is No Laughing Matter For Chelsea Handler
Witnessing Chelsea Handler's awkward pursuit of intelligence regarding her grandparents' Nazi ties on TLC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" made for a strange, crowded hour of television that left us uncomfortable and emotionally jet-lagged.
Nazi history is serious, and funny lady Chelsea is somber! Pause. Nazi history is wacky stuff for Chelsea to riff on! Hey, TLC: Pick. A. Tone.
It starts out OK, with Chelsea talking about being Jewish and German and having many siblings and being raised Jewish. Chelsea maintains a wry perspective on her Jewish heritage, making fun of her background (and all backgrounds) on her E! talk show "Chelsea Lately" and in her comedic memoirs.
In the book "Lies that Chelsea Handler Told Me," for example, one of her "Chelsea Lately" writers notes that it's not a "productive morning in the writers' room" if Chelsea hasn't "made a 9/11 or Holocaust joke (and I'm talking about the Jewish Holocaust, not the Armenian Holocaust)." She will joke about anything, really, and it's unclear whether she's holding back here for personal or professional reasons.
We see Chelsea all grown up, at play with her dogs, and we briefly meet one of her brothers. Her grandfather, who fought for Germany in WWII, had a green book with a swastika on top — yes, a swastika — and her grandmother kept memoirs that remain untranslated. Seriously with the memoirs, Handlers? Anyway, suddenly...
Suddenly, meaning "Whoa, jarring." You have to tread lightly when you talk swastikas, and now Chelsea's in Germany learning that her grandfather worked for a very enthusiastic Nazi. There's a half-baked lesson on Hitler's genius job-creating skills... and subsequent racism and hatred. It's just too tone-deaf. You can't dissect the cultural impact of Adolf "I exterminated Jewish people" Hitler in a tiny segment.
Chelsea looks strained during a stilted conversation about the odds of her grandfather being a hater. How could she not? This isn't chit-chat about vodka and one-night stands; this is, you know, HITLER. Slow. It. Down. This isn't "The Amazing Race to the Concentration Camp," TLC. Shame on you for rushing a girl as she tries to process her roots. Ever hear of violins? This would be the time to play 'em.