Samantha Who: Season 1
Did you ever get to the point in your life that you just wished there was some sort of cosmic reset button? It would be great if you could just hit it and restart your life hopefully correcting your faults and becoming a better person. In lieu of such a device many people move away in hopes of redefining themselves in a new city with a new job and set of friends. This theme of a life style do-over is the basis for the ABC sit-com ‘Samantha Who?’ staring Christina Applegate. In this show the titular Samantha is not exactly a nice person. She is involved in a car accident and goes into a coma for eight days. When she wakes up Samantha is affected with a serious case of retrograde amnesia. She does not recognize her parents, friends co-workers and even more problematic, herself. She has to go through a process of piecing her life and memories back together. The more she learns about her old identity the less she likes herself. This gives Samantha the perfect opportunity to recreate her personality and life. This may seem like a strange premise for a half hour long television comedy but it actually does work. It is funny yet unlike a lot of sit-coms touches something in the audience on an emotional level. A large part of this is due to the craftsmanship of the cast and crew and their dedication to excellence even in a format that is usually relegate to a quick laugh. At least this is an original idea for a TV series. It is refreshing to see that not every group of writers is churning out the same old thing season after season. This is fairly well written produced and has a stellar cast to pull off something that is different and fresh. Those out there turned off by the mediocrity of most sit-coms will be engaged by the originality of this show. If you missed the opening season of this series then now is your chance to catch up. ABC through Paramount has released it to DVD.
The series was created by Cecelia Ahern and Donald Todd. Ahern is new to the field but Todd has a long line of series he has scripted including ‘Ugly Betty’, ‘Dave’s World’, ‘Alf’ and ‘The Twilight Zone’. This is a pretty well diversified resume and it shows here. he is used to writing for a quirky show based around what could be a one joke affair. This is the danger that they face as they head towards their second season. Can they keep up with fresh ideas after the amnesia plot line is played out? While the writing is better than a lot of the sit-coms around it does have a tendency to be just a bit uneven. In a way this does work considering the premise. Any story about a person finding themselves after a life changing event is bound to have its ups and downs. The series is based on a solid foundation. This is a story of rediscovery and that gives the show heart. Samantha rapidly comes to the realization that there was little to like about her pre-accident self. The amnesia has wiped the slate and let a fundamentally good person inside who would like to get out and stay. There is also the interaction between Samantha and her friends and family that adds to the series. They were all used to the old Samantha. They may not have liked her all that much but they did love her despite her many faults. Now, a new equilibrium has to be established in their lives as she struggles to regain her place in the world.
At the start of the pilot episode we see a balloon shaped like the sun reading ‘Get Well Soon’ over the comatose form of Samantha. She muses to her unconscious self that there are some good things about being in a coma; it is a lot like a spa with people taking care of you but the down side is she can hear what people are saying. Her acerbic mother Regina (Jean Smart) is talking about how no one liked Sam. Regina is busy recording the room while Sam’s Dad, Howard (Kevin Dunn) is sitting nearby. Even though Sam, until recently, has not spoken to her mother in about two years they came to be with her after the hit and run accident. Mom is filming in hopes to be on ‘Home Makeover’ because of her tragic plight. Suddenly Sam wakes up. Regina’s first reaction is to tell Sam to close her eyes again because she has to redo a shot. Sam’s first words are ‘who are you’, she has forgotten almost everything. Before the accident Sam was a vice president at a very well to do real estate firm there in Chicago. She was considered cut throat and ruthless. In her personal life she was frequently promiscuous; almost hedonistic caring only about herself. Until recently Sam was living with her boyfriend Todd Deepler (Barry Watson) but she had to move back with her parents. Todd is a freelance photographer. Sam was having an affair with the very wealthy Winston Funk (Timothy Olyphant) who was in the process of divorcing his wife to be with Sam. Sam also was having an affair with Rene (William Abadie) but is off again on again with him. Let’s just say the concept of monogamy was not big with the old Sam. Visiting Sam everyday of her hospital stay was Dena (Melissa McCarthy). They were best friends as children both haven’t seen each other since grade school. Dena wanted to reconnect with her friend and convinces Sam that they have remained friend for all those years. Sam’s current best friend is Andrea Belladonna (Jennifer Esposito). Andrea also works are the real estate firm and is every bit the party girl. She wants the old Sam back, the one that is mean and demanding, just like her. Things go instantly wrong at her parents so Sam goes to live, platonically, with Todd, hoping a familiar setting will jog some memories. Slowly Sam pieces together the fact that she was simply a terrible person but since she can’t remember any of it decides to try to reform herself into someone better. Still, every so often the old personality sneaks out much to the embarrassment of the new Sam.
What makes this series work is the opposition of the characters. Dena and Andrea are like the old time angle on one shoulder, devil on the other each trying to pull Sam in a different and mutually exclusive direction. Andrea wants her mean girl friend back while Dena wants to go back to when Sam was her only friend. Todd sees this as a way to reconnect with the woman he loves and help her be the person he knows she can be. The more Sam finds out about her past the more she hates what she used to be. This is ultimately a story about personal redemption. Only time will tell if the writers can maintain this once the amnesia wears thin and the focus of the show has to change. For now this season is very good in the way it shows the conflict and it has a great setup for the type of awkwardness needed in a sit-com.
The DVD is presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 video with Dolby 5.1 audio. There are several extras included a blooper reel, deleted scenes and commentary tracks on selected episodes. This is fun for the older members of the family but the old Sam is too intense for younger viewers.