After waking from a coma, Applegate’s titular character, Samantha Who? has no idea who she is. Ah yes, mistaken identity; that dependable sitcom device. Shows like The Beverly Hillbillies and I Love Lucy milked it for years, while Ruth Cracknell had a field day with Alzheimer’s disease in Mother and Son, albeit with weightier social comment.
When she awakens from a hit and run eight days previous, Sam has ‘retrograde amnesia’. This conveniently allows her to function in the world, minus any personal memories. It’s a tactful choice that avoids clumsy scenes of her forever asking, ‘What’s a hospital? What’s basic motor function?’ and allows the show’s writers to cut to the chase.
She awakens scar-free, too. That must have been some accident.
Filmed in single-cam sans laugh track or studio audience, this is co-produced by Applegate. With Married with Children under her belt, she’s surely well-heeled in the genre. Here she gets to be a likeable, inoffensive hero, skating through scenes with a bubbly confidence that’s hard not to like.
Accompanying Sam on a journey of self-(re)discovery are her parents, played by Kevin Dunn and Jean Smart (Designing Women, 24). I’ve always elevated Smart alongside Jennifer Coolidge, one of those glamorous, wry, supports who can walk into a scene with a handful of lines and leave co-stars in their dust. She’ll be fun.
As Sam’s boyfriend, Barry Watson (7th Heaven, What About Brian?) has little to add other than to be the target of Applegate’s knockabout comedy. Her overweight pal played by Melissa McCarthy is a kooky, simplistic Kathy Najimy copy, but sorta works anyway.
Sam quickly finds she may not be the nicest person on the planet. It’s one of the few elements of the show worth exploring; the rest is all pretty inconsequential. So, as she starts to re-assemble her life’s jigsaw, Sam is allowed the chance to reboot her personality.
The series arrives as the strongest comedy of the new American season, which really doesn’t say much for the 07/08 year. Heavily female-skewed, it’s a rom-com that doesn’t pitch any higher than Alicia Silverstone’s Miss Match. If you aren’t overwhelmed by Applegate’s hyperventilating comedic style, this is an easy diversion: light, fluffy, here today, forgotten tomorrow.
A bit like Sam’s life, perhaps…