By EW Staff
August 18, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Bob D'Amico

9:30-10 PM · ABC · Debuts Oct. 15

Samantha Newly is a bitch. She’s a materialistic, shallow, philandering liar — the type of woman who’d probably kick a puppy if it looked at her the wrong way. Yet her alter ego, Christina Applegate, is betting you’re going to love Samantha…eventually. ”All she wants to do is just be a good person and really, you know, fix the damage that this other part of herself did,” Applegate says of her character, who’s hit by a car, develops amnesia, and then slowly realizes the (t)error of her old ways. ”We set up this duality of her good and evil. People really relate to righting wrongs in life.”

If nothing else, fans can relate to Applegate, a vet fondly remembered as Kelly Bundy on Fox’s Married…With Children. After NBC canned her follow-up sitcom, Jesse, in 2000, Applegate, who has found success in movies (Anchorman) and on Broadway (Sweet Charity), never thought she’d return to television. ”This came along, and the first two pages made me laugh…. Samantha’s voice was seamless, and it felt very natural.”

On the surface, the show’s premise seems better suited for a movie-of-the-week or big-screen comedy. But exec producer Peter Traugott insists there’s plenty of material to mine for a weekly series — beyond mere memory-loss humor. ”She’s going to be on that constant quest to figure out who she is,” he says. Adds exec producer Donald Todd: ”If you could start over and be anything you want, what and who would you be?”

Right away, Samantha is charged with sorting out the messy relationships she forged as her nasty, pre-wreck self — ”bad” Sam, who’s resurrected in frequent flashbacks. ”Good Sam’s the heart of the show and what keeps it grounded in reality,” says the actress, while the supporting cast is composed of ”zany, wacky, troubled, not-perfect, dysfunctional people.” Now that Samantha’s got amnesia, her estranged, narcissistic mother (24‘s Jean Smart) capitalizes by swooping back into her life as if nothing were amiss. Gal pals Dena (Gilmore Girls‘ Melissa McCarthy) and Andrea (Related‘s Jennifer Esposito) act as the angel and devil by her side. And her relationship with her duped ex-boyfriend Todd (What About Brian‘s Barry Watson) is ”fraught with land mines,” says Traugott. ”He knows so much more about her than she knows about herself.” As does everyone else, for that matter.

Even with a seasoned supporting cast, the success of the show is ultimately vested in Applegate’s appeal. Well, that and Dancing With the Stars, which serves as Samantha’s lead-in. ”We’ve been wanting to do a female-point-of-view comedy for a long time,” says ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson. ”This is perfect.” Applegate, however, puts her money on the imperfections: ”She’s so flawed,” she says. ”You can’t help but want the best for her, and hopefully, that’ll bring people back.” Bitch gone good? Now, that’s something you don’t easily forget. —Tanner Stransky