Web exclusive: Sitcom complications 


“The New Adventures of Old Christine”
Mondays, 9:30 p.m.
WISH Channel 8

Every six months, one of the broadcasting industry magazines surveys TV critics about their favorite shows and, conversely, the shows they think are the worst.

The second question always stumps me. I don’t watch bad TV (or what I think is bad, anyway). If a show looks stupid, implausible or is yet another procedural let’s-catch-the-killer-in-44-minutes drama, I watch the first episode and then go on to something I like. TV is a place we should go to be entertained. It shouldn’t be used as a time-killer.

Which brings me to “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” a show that falls in that gray zone of not good enough to watch every week but one that keeps me coming back from time to time in hopes that the level of writing will eventually catch up to the quality of its very fine cast and characters.

But I’ve looked at the season premiere and another upcoming episode and, I have to say, it’s not there yet.

In Monday’s episode, Christine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who plays insecurity here as well as she did selfishness on “Seinfeld”) has finally decided to sleep with her son’s fourth-grade teacher, Mr. Harris (Blair Underwood). But nothing in sitcomland is ever that easy, and the usual complications occur. In this case, it’s Christine’s lack of confidence, brought on by her best friend Barb (Wanda Sykes) and ex-husband, Richard (Clark Gregg), and something that happens to her slacker brother Matthew (the superbly deadpan Hamish Linklater).

There are some inspired moments and lines (like when Christine finally decides to “do” someone she loves) and a high level of stupidity where the characters reveal themselves to be thoroughly self-absorbed. And this is just an aside, but you have to think that Christine might want to surround herself with a more supportive bunch. If she isn’t being told she’s a lousy lover, she’s being called a slut or something equally insulting. With friends like these, Louis-Dreyfus might as well be hanging around with the “Seinfeld” gang again.

I watched the premiere several times, hoping to be swayed one way or the other. I wasn’t. As default TV goes, it’s worthy of your half hour. As appointment TV? No.

In the additional episode CBS sent, “New Christine” (Emily Rutherfurd), who is Old Christine’s ex-husband’s girlfriend, sets up Christine with a blind date who turns out to be 20 years younger. (Shades of the “Seinfeld” where Elaine unknowingly falls for the 15-year-old video clerk, Vincent.)

This leads to a lot of age-related lines and gags, several of which are genuinely funny and none of which I will reveal here because they would spoil the plot. If you happen to stumble across the episode, I mean.


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