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Snap judgment: 'Samantha Who?'

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Samw_l

Samw_lI was worried that Samantha Who? — about a yuppie who awakens from a coma with amnesia and a new, puppyish personality, and who is astonished to keep discovering what a horrible person she was before — was going to be Regarding Henry: The Sitcom. Fortunately, the pilot, which aired last night on ABC, was pretty delightful, thanks largely to a winning comic performance by Christina Applegate, a strong supporting cast, and a dizzying pace, and surprisingly sardonic tone — all of which kept the premiere from sinking into the maudlin, movie-of-the-week quicksand suggested by the premise. (Watch for our critic’s official review of the show in an upcoming issue of EW.)

In addition to Applegate (pictured), the show is cast almost perfectly.* I especially liked Jean Smart as Sam’s greedy mom (who sees her daughter’s brief coma as an opportunity to land on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), Jennifer Esposito as her boozy, party-gal pal, and Gilmore Girls‘ Melissa McCarthy as the cheery, unpopular gal whose friendship Sam chucked back in junior high after Sam became a Heather. Also good was Barry Watson (pictured, right) as Sam’s once-devoted boyfriend Todd, though he’s so kind and compassionate that it’s a mystery why he and Bad Sam ever became a couple. Surely we’ll find out why in weeks to come, as we watch Good Sam try fumblingly to patch things up with him. (I haven’t seen a kiss that ridiculously awkward and uncomfortable since Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley at the MTV Video Music Awards.)

addCredit(“Samantha Who?: Byron Cohen”)

So far, it looks like the show’s dilemma is that of its maincharacter: Good Sam is so sweet that you want to root for her, but BadSam is a lot more fun. The moments to watch for will be those where BadSam bubbles up from the subconscious to make her presence felt in GoodSam’s life (there were a couple such moments in the pilot) or thosewhere Good Sam explodes in frustration (her fizzy, pastry-inducedmeltdown at an AA meeting may have been the finest moment ofApplegate’s career to date).

So, PopWatchers, did you watch Samantha Who? last night? Did youlike it? (Do you remember?) Will you be sticking around after DancingWith the Stars to give Samantha a twirl?

*Given how gimmicky the premise is, the only character that rang false forme was Tim Russ’ philosophical, Tom Waits-quoting doorman. It’s reallygetting tiresome, this cliché of the black character whose onlyfunction is to provide emotional and spiritual guidance to the whiteprotagonist. Also, Russ has apparently been directed to be stoic forcomic effect, but that kind of unemotional underplaying worked a lotbetter during his years as a Vulcan on Star Trek: Voyager.