Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fall TV Review - Samantha Who?

written by Cecelia Ahern and Don Todd, directed by Robert Duncan McNeill

That was a pretty funny pilot. Despite the name change (originally Sam I Am, which was better until Seuss and co. entered). So, I'm not sure where I heard all the bad reviews but I thought Samantha Who? was pretty hilarious and quite a good concept for a show. Granted, I've never actually seen Overboard but this basic plot of bad girl gets amnesia and turns good is paved with comic gold so why change it? I mean, if Shakespeare can mine the 7 basic plots out there (or whatever it is), then why not everyone else?

To be honest, I never thought Christina Applegate would do much beyong being a Bundy. So I thought she was cute as Jesse which surprised me. Then when she did good as Sweet Charity on Broadway, I was happy for her. Then a few movie roles, and voila, a semi-respected actress considering, well, she was a Bundy (on the other hand, Katey Segall has also moved on quite well with herself). So I'm glad to see her as Samantha, the girl in question who wakes up with no memory of anything from her past, not remembering her family (Kevin Dunna and Jean Smart), best friend (Jennifer Esposito), boy friend (Barry Watson), stalkerish loser friendly non-friend (Melissa McCarthy), and most importantly, not really remembering all her evil former ways.

We get to see the evil in flashbacks, when she first stole Todd's coffee and giving him the finger before they become an item, or we see the evil in sporadic bursts that eject from Samantha, like when she's at a club and another partyer is being annoying. If anyone can convince us that she can be a bad girl AND a good girl, Christina Applegate is probably near the top of the list, and she milks it for all the funny.

What makes this show work even more than just the typical central girl character show is the surrounding cast. I loved Jean Smart since she was Charlene on Designing Women and she was surpringly super scary/fierce in 24 so taking on the nutso role of Samantha's mother, who only alludes to their former riff, is FANTASTIC!

Jennifer Esposito plays it nicely as Samantha's way-too-cool best friend and bad influence and it's nice to see her back in comedy, but Melissa McCarthy, taking on the role of the sad fat girl who is mistaken as Samantha's friend, even though they hadn't been since grade school, was far funnier than it probably should be. It's a cliched role yet Melissa owns it and makes it (no pun intended) a fully rounded character. Sookie she ain't. Sookie was a happy character. Dena is just sad (but very very funny to us).

Barry Watson is fine as Todd, the boyfriend who had just finally gotten the nerve to break up with Sam before her accident, and almost convinces me that he is weak enough to have been whipped by evil Sam, but just strong enough to be, well, Barry Watson. Plus, and I know he cut it during What About Brian's season 2 but really, who watched that?, Barry Watson finally has a decent hair cut.

Of course Tim Russ has to be the black man with the words of wisdom (or memory of Sam's formal life) as the doorman to her building but it actually worked better than I thought, even though the words Benson kept popping up in my mind.

So, I'm glad the pilot met all my expectations since I was excited about this just based on the female cast alone (and newly shorn Barry Watson doesn't hurt), so at this point Samantha Who? gets 3.5 Stars (***1/2) though it has the possibility of being higher but again, I tend to hold of giving automatic 4's or 5's until I've seen a few more episodes (I've learned my lesson from The Nine).

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