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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Samantha Who?: "Pilot"

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Illustration for article titled iSamantha Who?/i: Pilot

It's a credit Christina Applegate's talent that she's been able to shake off her role on Married… With Children–where she played the same, sexually promiscuous daughter part for what seemed like 17 years–and segue into non-Bundycentric acting. Not every actress who first found fame wearing big-'80s hair and adorning teenage boys' walls would have been able to find a second act. But Applegate has carried on gamely on television, in theater, and in films. She even held her own nicely against Will Ferrell in Anchorman.

So even if no one remembers her previous venture into sitcom stardom, the 1998-2000 NBC series Jesse all that fondly (if at all), putting Applegate in another sitcom isn't a bad idea. Unfortunately the first episode of the new Samantha Who? suggests she'll have to keep looking for the perfect fit. Created by Irish novelist Cecilia Ahern (PS, I Love You) and Donald Todd, Samantha Who? (previously known as Sam I Am) can at least boast a novel premise. After getting struck down in a mysterious hit-and-run accident, Samantha (Applegate) emerges from a coma with amnesia. She quickly discovers she is, or at least was, a much-hated bitch. She was mean and unfaithful to her boyfriend (What About Brian?'s Barry Watson). Her best friend (Jennifer Esposito) missed her more as an accomplice than a pal and her mom (Jean Smart) isn't too happy that the coma's end probably spoiled her chance to be on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Nonetheless, Samantha is determined to be a better person, even if flashes of the old, bad Samantha keep coming to the front.

Applegate remains game, maybe too game. For every funny moment in which she lapses back into her evil ways we got a tedious moment of her yammering to herself about how little she knows about herself. (Samantha at a refreshment table, "Am I allergic to nuts?") It's as she thinks if she eased up for a second, the screen might go black. The pilot keeps the pace brisk, but briskness doesn't make it amusing and while there's potential for the series to find real emotion in Samantha's plight, the pilot mostly surrounds her with grating stock characters. Maybe she had the right idea when she was a misanthrope.

Grade: C

Stray observations:

- It's nice to see Gilmore Girls' Melissa McCarthy until it becomes obvious how little she has to do.

- References to Elvis Costello and Tom Waits in a network sitcom? Edgy!

- There's one great moment here, when Samantha tries to determine if she can play the piano only to create an ungodly racket.

- Without the question mark in the title, this show might be mistaken for a spin-off of Dr. Who.

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