Samantha Who?

Film
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
OUT OF MEMORY Applegate struggles to remember Watson.
Byron Cohen/abc OUT OF MEMORY Applegate struggles to remember Watson.

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Samantha Who? is easily the best new sitcom of the fall crop, though there’s an extent to which that’s damnation with faint praise: ABC has launched only three new 30-minute comedies, CBS and Fox have one apiece and NBC none. Still, Christina Applegate’s new star vehicle is a very enjoyable series (made more enjoyable still by the lack of a laugh track) with a strong cast, and one that’s well poised to benefit from ABC’s transformation into the All ’Bout Chicks network.

In the years since the 1998–2000 Jesse, Applegate has diversified her comic skills on Broadway (Sweet Charity) and in the movies (Anchorman), developing confidence and timing that helps sell a premise that probably had whiskers when Shakespeare was in second grade. She plays Samantha, an ambitious lawyer who loses her memory in an accident and is horrified to discover that she used to be a championship-caliber bitch. In a movie, the premise would need a second act; on TV, Samantha’s need to conceal her amnesia at the rapacious real-estate firm where she works provides the series with plenty of fuel to cruise on until it finds its own voice.

Thanks to the ace supporting players, that day may not be far off: Surrounding Applegate are Jean Smart as her worry-wart mom, Gilmore Girls’ Melissa McCarthy as a childhood pal turned quasistalker, Jennifer Esposito as a lushy BFF, Barry Watson as a long-suffering (before the amnesia) boyfriend and Tim Russ (basically reprising his Vulcan role from Star Trek: Voyager) as a philosophical doorman. All are well-defined by the end of the second episode, and while having a such a solid foundation so early on always bodes well, it also leaves producers with a lot to live up to.

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