Judge Ryan Keefer could very easily make an old joke here, but the 4:30 dinner buffet isn't going to eat itself, you know.
Our reviews of Diagnosis: Death (published January 29th, 2010) and The New Adventures Of Old Christine: The Complete First Season (published January 28th, 2008) are also available.
"We'd have sex?"
After a partial order of episodes for its first season, The New Adventures of Old Christine seemed to settle into a groove of sorts, with a complete second season's worth of episodes to help fully beat back the Seinfeld curse and introduce the world to some capable supporting comedic talent. Is that mission accomplished here?
Facts of the Case
For those who are only aware of the show peripherally, Christine Campbell (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Seinfeld) is a single mother who takes her son Ritchie (Trevor Gagnon, Big Fish) to school, co-owns a gym with her best friend Barb (Wanda Sykes, Monster In Law), and plays capable grown-up influence to her roommate/brother, Matthew (Hamish Linklater, American Dreams). Why is she called "old" Christine? Well, her ex-husband, Richard (Clark Gregg, The West Wing) is dating a much younger woman whose name just happens to be Christine (Emily Rutherford, Married to the Kellys). While she tries to reconcile that, her new adventures this season include those with Ritchie and the others in her life as she tries to manage staying sane. But we'll also accept sober as an answer.
Season One of The New Adventures of Old Christine was only a half-season of shows, but as I alluded to earlier, there's a full complement of episodes in Season Two, with 22 episodes spread out over four discs. The breakdown is as follows:
Aside from Season Two being a full-season's order, this was also the first season back after a Best Comedic Actress Emmy for Louis-Dreyfus. I'd have to presume that her win was the reason for a full-season of episodes for Season Two. While everyone was being enamored of her quite a bit in Season One, she returns to a lot of the humor which made her appealing as part of the Seinfeld quartet. Christine is a comically flawed character who is still adjusting to life as a divorcee, as she clashes with Richard over his parenting choices and slowly adjusts to life around and interaction with "new" Christine, while to trying find her own romantic way.
Those romances are the main source of entertainment in Season Two, as the on-again, off-again main focus of her intentions is Ritchie's fourth-grade teacher Mr. Harris (Blair Underwood of L.A. Law lore in a fantastic and underrated turn), and the tension between the two is palpable. This is crystallized on one episode when the two are in the same restaurant while Christine is out on a disastrous first date with Tom (Dave Foley, The Kids in the Hall). Some of the other experiences are also hilarious. Take "The Answer Is Maybe," when Christine bumps into and starts seeing Jeff (Scott Bakula, Quantum Leap). The relationship is going along well when all of a sudden Jeff bumps into "new" Christine in an unexpected surprise that is arguably the funniest of the season as Christine and Matthew try to make sense of it all. The Christine character is also blunt and outspoken in many instances as well, with "My Big Fat Sober Wedding" being the most prominent example that comes to mind. On the flip side, considering who the star of the show is, some of the episodes seem a little derivative. "The Champ" focuses on Christine's inexplicable attraction to Stan the "Sad Dad" (Andy Richter, Andy Richter Controls The Universe), with a talent that seems a little reminiscent of a certain Seinfeld episode that included a swirl.
On the performance side of things, Louis-Dreyfus continues to bring the goods in Season Two much as she did in Season One, but I continue to be impressed (or pleasantly surprised at the very least) by the supporting cast and guest stars. Linklater is a little on the slacker side of things but plays the role very well, and Gregg, who isn't known for his comedic work, continued to improve as the season went along. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Alex Kapp Horner (Lucky 13), who plays Lindsay, one half of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed, abrasive California housewife team that serves as Christine's antagonists (Tricia O'Kelley plays the other half, Marly). Folks like Sykes, Richter and Foley are proven talents, all designed to help Louis-Dreyfus' able comedic work (has it really been 25 years since she was on Saturday Night Live?), and the ensemble is one of the better and more underrated groups on network television. Any way you slice it, The New Adventures of Old Christine is a welcome change of pace from the usual brand of sitcom that the networks air these days.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Louis-Dreyfus' Emmy win aside, the show had a difficult time finding viewers in the first couple of seasons, and the DVD extras don't help much in that regard. There's a nine-minute blooper reel which is actually funny and one of the better reels I've seen in recent memory, and about ten minutes' worth of deleted scenes over the season (and put on each disc) that were either redundant or not necessary to the storytelling. Past that, there's no commentary with any of the cast, no participation from show creator Kari Lizer or executive producer Andy Ackerman, nada. Come on folks, bring something to the table.
It's frustrating, because while the material within Season Two of The New Adventures of Old Christine is fun and highly entertaining, the supplemental material (or lack thereof) really just don't make it worth a buy. Yeah, the show's funny, but you can pick up any of the episodes that are airing now and not really lose anything on the character development side of things. If you're a fan I'd even suggest holding off on any sort of purchase, but you're liable to get drunk and forget what I say now, right?
Cast and crew are exonerated, but Warner Bros. is guilty for the crime of putting out a lackluster set that isn't friendly to the new viewer.
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