New, funny TV show. Judge Ryan Keefer like. Too much old TV. Must fix now.
Our reviews of Diagnosis: Death (published January 29th, 2010) and The New Adventures Of Old Christine: The Complete Second Season (published January 10th, 2009) are also available.
"Hi, it's me, message to myself. A few things, uh, put extra money in Ritchie's lunch for snacks, buy milk, buy wine, find weird smell in living room, botox, maybe—I dunno, stop taking Nyquil, I think it's keeping you up. Okay, yeah, that's it, thank you very much."
The first season of The New Adventures of Old Christine is a gem in the relatively unimpressive mine that is current network television.
Facts of the Case
Christine Campbell (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Seinfeld) is a single mother who has a great relationship with her ex-husband, Richard (Clark Gregg, The West Wing). In fact, they have a better relationship as a divorced couple than they ever did when they were married, which was two years ago. The title of the show is explained when Christine finds out that Richard is dating someone younger, whose name is also…Christine (Emily Rutherford, Married to the Kellys). Logic tells you this won't be confusing, and it's not, but it is somewhat hurtful when his new girlfriend is referred to as "new Christine." It doesn't help that old Christine isn't really seeing anyone, and instead focuses her attention on her son, Ritchie (Trevor Gagnon, Big Fish), and her roommate/brother, Matthew (Hamish Linklater, American Dreams). Other supporting characters that have limited screen time include Wanda Sykes (Monster In Law) as Christine's best friend, and Andy Richter (Andy Richter Controls the Universe) as Christine's occasional one night stand. Oh, and I suppose I could mention the two snobby room moms from Ritchie's private school (Tricia O'Kelley and Alex Kapp Horner) that make Christine feel less than adequate, shall we say.
Christine has a few quirks: she loves gross surgical television shows, like if they had one where they suction out 50 pounds of fat? She'd be all over that. "They're putting her fat in a trashcan? Why would they use a trashcan?" Nyquil is her nighttime wine. You know how when you can't get to sleep because you've got too many things going in your brain? Her solution is to leave herself messages on the answering machine. To which Ritchie asks her, "Why do you thank yourself when you leave messages?" Her answer: "Because sometimes, I'm the only one that's nice to me."
While I continue to drill away at my pile of high definition disc reviews, my alter ego/better half, the lovely Mrs. Keefer, continues on in her role of television scribe in the hizz-ouse.
With the writer's strike continuing, I was itching for something to sate my thirst for new, funny television. After all, how many times can one watch 30 Rock reruns before getting tired? No, seriously, I'm asking.
What's great about this show is that yes, the Christine character is funny, but so is everyone else. Christine and her son, Ritchie clearly have a different mother/son relationship. When she brings him to his new, expensive private school, Ritchie's question to his mom is, "Where are the black kids?" For herself, Christine needs to start dating, but she's scared. "I've got a full life and a body pillow that I can get dressed in front of."
Throughout the two discs and thirteen episodes, you realize that Richard and Christine have the most unique divorced relationship, even talking on the phone every night before going to bed. Clark Gregg as Richard looks like he's going to crack up with each delivered joke the writers have given him, and he has a great comedic edge that was unexpected, especially considering he's really only had semi-recurring roles in a few dramas.
The interaction between Matthew and every other character is just a perfect amount of comedy. And honestly, thinking about it now, I don't ever think I even saw him smile; he just had great delivery. He is a peripheral character, in that he's just the brother, and you don't get to know him much, but you forget that you don't. His blank look says the most of any blank look I've ever seen. At one point, Ritchie asks him what his mom does when she goes out (on a date). Instead of giving him the real answer, he tells him that, "she fights crime." As for the relationship between Christine and Matthew, they enjoy reading obituaries and guessing where the memorial/monies donated are going. For example, Edna Rosenblatt's obituary may say she wanted a tree planted. Then when Christine looks out her window and sees new Christine at the door, she decides to wait to answer the door, leading old Christine to open the door and initiate this encounter for why she waited to answer the door: "Oh, I thought you were someone else." "Who?" "Edna Rosenblatt. And I do not want to see her. I owe her a tree."
This show has won an Emmy (Louis-Dreyfus for Lead Actress in a Comedy) and has been nominated for another Emmy and a Golden Globe, making Louis-Dreyfus the most successful former Seinfeld cast member. Her first show after playing Elaine Benes, Watching Ellie, was canceled after just a dozen episodes. With Season Three of New Christine airing soon, it appears that she might have a show that will stick.
As far as extras go, this first season set is clearly lacking. We have eight unaired scenes, an eight-minute gag reel that was only somewhat funny, and a 17-minute background piece on "The Real Christine." The last of those has the series creator, Kari Lizer, talking about the autobiographical nature of the show. Apparently, Louis-Dreyfus was looking for a mother-type role, and this script just came along. Overall, there's really nothing to enjoy here.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
It's a sitcom, and although it's funny, it's not everlasting. I won't be quoting lines from the show to my husband anytime soon. A larger problem I had and was confused about has to do with the order of the episodes. Or maybe it needs a larger explanation. Basically, the first episode of the season has the viewer introduced to "new Christine" and periodically, you see Ritchie interact with new Christine. However, in episode nine, "Ritchie Has Two Moms," a big deal was made about how Ritchie is finally going to meet new Christine. Confusing? Yes.
What a good little sitcom. Being that there's so little new television on now, pick it up and have some long-needed laughs.
Not guilty. I'll soon be watching Season Three on the big black box that has recently become a bookshelf.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• "The Real Christine: A Conversation with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kari Lizer and Cast"
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