As the first former cast member to break the so-called “Seinfeld curse” of repeatedly canceled sitcoms starring Michael Richards and Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus scored a huge hit as well as an Emmy Award for her performance as the wildly unpredictable single mom Christine Campbell.
The New Adventures of Old Christine features the same tightly-knit co-dependent relationships that provided the backbone for series creator and executive producer Kari Lizer's previous Emmy darling smash Will & Grace but daringly allows our lead performer the opportunity to truly embrace the outrageous as witnessed in executive producer Andy Ackerman's earlier credits Two and a Half Men along with Seinfeld.
Although it wasn't quite as far out there as the sometimes too bizarre yet consistently more creative 30 Rock, New Adventures soared thanks to a genuinely likable supporting cast that in the tradition of Frasier, routinely stole the thunder from its main character by anchoring the sitcom in reality when it threatened to lose its course.
Nonetheless since New Adventures was one of very few network television comedy series to center on a female protagonist, it makes the recent news that the show has been canceled particularly unfortunate.
Hoping to lessen the blow and give fans their continued fix of the series, Warner Brothers has followed up the disc release of the widely available first two seasons with the launch of the third installment exclusively on both WBShop.com and the TNT store as part of their DVD on Demand program, dishing out the WGA strike abbreviated ten episode season in this slim-packaged 2-disc set.
Dating one of TV’s most frequently cast romantic leading men in the form of Sex and the City and Dirty Sexy Money star Blair Underwood’s dreamy schoolteacher Mr. Harris, things seem to be moving in the right direction for the divorced Christine Campbell as the season opens.
Yet having a relationship with someone that genetically perfect adds a lot of pressure to the already insecure Christine’s over-scheduled life as a single parent and small business owner as she struggles to make time for dates and overcome her own personal anxieties about the way society looks at a woman who steps out on the arm of such a handsome man.
Predictably single and back to her neurotic, quirky and often self-obsessed self within a matter of episodes, Christine tries to drastically change herself in a variety of ways from temporarily buddying up with Tricia O’Kelley and Alex Kapp Horner’s queen bee mean moms to modeling herself after Oprah to eventually trying to score some weed to share with her best friend Barb (Wanda Sykes).
Throughout the ten show season the unsung Hamish Linklater habitually keeps the laughs flowing steadily as Christine’s roommate/brother Matthew who, similar to the sister with whom he’s informed he has an unhealthily close relationship, also vows to take a bigger hand in the way his life is playing out by quitting medical school to become a therapist.
And although he’s seemingly more “together” in comparison to his sister, Matthew startles everyone in a hilarious two-part storyline that finds him engaging in a spontaneous one-night stand with Barb that the pair tries to keep up under the pretense that they’re actually dating in order to freak out Christine.
Yet even though he continues to be a fixture in the life of his ex-wife and close friend “Old Christine,” Clark Gregg’s Richard Campbell takes the next step in his relationship with the sweetly innocent yet slightly dimwitted “New Christine” (Emily Rutherford) as the two buy a home together, unknowingly making a greater faux pas when the place they choose just so happens to have been the dream home that his first wife had always admired.
When you add a perimenopausal crisis into the mix (as diagnosed by gynecologist Jason Alexander!) and a blind date with a man twenty years her junior, the third season of New Adventures manages to charm you all the way through its approximate 220 minute running time which I viewed in a nice weeknight marathon.
Unfortunately, some of the jokes tend towards the predictable side so often that you wonder if the writers just went with the first draft instead of trying to come up with something completely original, which they’re truly capable of achieving in some of the season’s standouts.
And likewise at times Louis-Dreyfus’ character is painted in such an obnoxiously narcissistic light that it’s hard to sympathize with her plight considering her gross negligence of what’s going on in the lives of those around her, making it frustrating that the female-centric and woman driven show never aspired to use its opportunity to represent us better as a gender.
Yet despite some of the flaws in the show’s writing, overall, it’s a frequently affable and truly funny series. Moreover, New Adventures consistently manages to hide its shortcomings thanks to the fearless tenacity of Louis-Dreyfus who not only attacks her role full-out to claw every bit of humor out of a given situation, but is also assisted at every turn by a triumphant supporting cast.
The ensemble altogether makes you smile each and every time more than a handful of characters are in a scene together since you’re always reassured by the fact that -- almost like a sports team -- they’re completely on each other’s wavelength, ready to pass the joke on to ensure that everyone gets a chance to shine and that laughter always wins.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
Labels: TV on DVD