There’s something awfully familiar about The New Adventures of Old Christine, now in its second season on CBS. Perhaps it’s the fact that the show owes a debt to Murphy Brown, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, Rhoda, Suddenly Susan (eek!), Kate & Allie, and Alright Already (a late-’90s gem starring Seinfeld scribe Carol Leifer). This might be a problem if it were 1997, but what makes Christine unique is that it’s currently the only female-led sitcom on the Big Four networks. Luckily, it’s a terrific one.
An owner of a Lucille Roberts-type gym, Christine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a boozy, kinda slutty, divorced mom who wears a toe ring and can’t quite modulate her voice. Much credit goes to Louis-Dreyfus for making the role appealing (compensating for an ill-advised toe ring is, ahem, a feat). Her committed delivery actually lifts the script. One-liners like ”I was just flirting, but sometimes it comes out mean” don’t exactly jump off the page, but coming out of Louis-Dreyfus’ mouth, they are comedic art — especially since she throws every part of her body into a scene. Her hair convincingly flirts with Andy Richter’s ”Sad Dad” (a recurring character who beds, or rather futons, Christine); her breasts, which are constantly in use as props, deserve their own billing in the opening credits. This homage to Karen from Will & Grace is no coincidence — Christine creator Kari Lizer was a coexecutive producer on that sitcom.
Lizer has made smart choices since the show’s debut in March. She toyed with reconciling Christine and her ex-husband, Richard (the wonderfully smug Clark Gregg), in the May cliff-hanger, but wisely kept them apart. That’s much better, since Christine spars so well with Richard’s dim-bulb girlfriend, New Christine (Emily Rutherfurd). But the best scenes occur between Louis-Dreyfus and the ”Meanie Moms” (Tricia O’Kelley and Alex Kapp Horner) at her son’s school; this blond, Pilates’d Waldorf and Statler combo spit out every piece of dialogue as if it were an unwanted carb.
The intelligent guest casting is also welcome, with Richter, Blair Underwood, and Scott Bakula appearing as Christine’s boyfriends. (Well, Bakula’s Shirley Jones shag wasn’t welcome.) And Wanda Sykes, who plays best friend Barb, should spend as much time on the set as possible until someone builds a comedy around this talented woman. In a better situation for comedy, Louis-Dreyfus wouldn’t be standing alone: Margaret Cho, Mo’Nique, Kate Clinton, and Susie Essman would all headline their own sitcoms. But for now, a world with an old Christine is much better than one with no Christine at all.