Monday, October 22, 2007

Fall 2007 TV: Samantha Who?

Samantha Who? (ABC)

I didn't find the premise of Samantha Who? very promising or original -- bad person gets conked on the head, gets amnesia, turns good -- and I don't think much of star Christina Applegate's acting ability. Yet I found the pilot episode surprisingly enjoyable. Maybe I've been conked on the head.

Applegate is the titular Samantha, who wakes up after a brief coma to find she's lost her memory. She's surrounded by her parents (Kevin Dunn and a hilariously passive-aggressive Jean Smart) and best friend (Melissa McCarthy). But she has no recollection of her parents, nor that she hasn't spoken to them in years. And she's unaware that her best friend isn't really her best friend anymore; they drifted apart when Samantha first started turning into a horrible bitch, many years ago. Her real best friend (Jennifer Esposito) couldn't even be bothered to visit her at the hospital; she's every bit as self-absorbed and callous as Samantha was.

The memory loss seems to have regressed Samantha back to the decent person she once was. When she discovers that she's been cheating on her live-in boyfriend (Barry Watson), she's crushed, as is he. After alienating or being repelled by everyone in her life, she finds the only person she can open up to is her building's doorman (Tim Russ, still looking very much like the Vulcan, Tuvok, he played on Star Trek: Voyager).

There were a lot of good lines and situations in the pilot, though honestly, not a lot of great ones, or even memorable ones. But I found myself liking Samantha, and Applegate, an awful lot, both as the kind amnesiac flailing about and trying to regain her life, and as the old, vicious Samantha that occasionally takes center stage. Applegate impressed me a lot more here as an actual actress, rather than merely a pretty line reader, as she has so often seemed on TV, or even struggling to keep up with the boys in Anchorman.

I also like the rest of the cast. Melissa McCarthy was always great as the sweetheart Sookie on Gilmore Girls; here, her sweetness covers up a bit of a manic personality, obsessed with Samantha. I liked Jennifer Esposito on Spin City, and she's fine here, with a believable nasty streak. Jean Smart and Kevin Dunn are both solid comedic talents, and make the most of their parts. Barry Watson is the weakest link here; his character seemed like a bit of a one-note doormat at first, but after his discovery of Samantha's affair, he toughens up a bit -- let's say he's up to two notes.

It's not a brilliant comedy, but it's an agreeably amusing one, one I can easily see myself watching again, if not going out of my way to watch.

Rating: 5 out of 10

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