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'Chelsea Lately' finale: Handler says bye in a big way

Chelsea Handler arrives at Glamour Magazine's 21st annual

Chelsea Handler arrives at Glamour Magazine's 21st annual Women of the Year Awards on Nov. 7, 2011 at Carnegie Hall in New York. Credit: Getty Images / Don Emmert

THE SHOW "Chelsea Lately"

WHEN | WHERE 11 p.m. Tuesday on E!

WHAT IT'S ABOUT After seven seasons, "Lately" signs off Tuesday night in this live, one-hour special promising special performances -- Miley Cyrus, 50 Cent -- and special guests, dozens of 'em, including Justin Theroux, Ben Falcone, Melissa McCarthy, Joe Manganiello, Leah Remini, Selena Gomez, Gerard Butler, Minnie Driver, Kristin Chenoweth, Trace Adkins, Avril Lavigne . . .

MY SAY Seven years on TV is a pretty good run for anyone, but for a female host of a late-night talk show, it's downright historic.

Hasn't happened before. Will happen again -- but who knows when or where.

Chelsea Handler certainly managed this feat in her own unique way. She once dated the boss (the show was, after all, his suggestion), wrote a number of confessional best-sellers, worked the standup circuit and built an industry unto herself. On air, her deadpan, don't-give-a-[expletive] style was a nice, bracing uppercut to Hollywood phonyism, and she collected a coterie of powergrrrls, like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston, who clearly relished the style too.

Her show -- deeply female-centric but hardly exclusively so -- was bright, blithe, vulgar, silly and seemingly effortless, its singular innovation the nightly comic roundtable that brought dozens of talented, funny people before a national audience. (And of course sidekick Chuy Bravo.)

So what happened? Who knows really, and no one is saying. In many interviews, Handler has long affected a what-me-worry attitude and was acidly dismissive of E! with its Kardashian fixation. She clearly believed the network was run by idiots, and said so. But that's hardly grounds for cancellation. The cold truth is that the numbers just weren't all that good (about half a million viewers) and not getting any better. This separation was probably mutual.

Her next stop, Netflix, now offers a chance for renewal. Can Handler grow into all that talent, and launch a sophisticated, smart show that gives the broadcast boys a run for their money? Or will it be just more vodka and genital jokes, along with the usual guest shilling something? We'll know in 2016, but the future of women in late night may depend on her. So here's hoping for "smart and sophisticated."

BOTTOM LINE Watch Tuesday night if only to see how Handler says goodbye to 30 -- 30!

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