The New Adventures of Old Christine - The Complete Second Season
Warner Bros. // Unrated // $39.98 // June 24, 2008
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted November 29, 2008
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A funny if inconsistent sitcom, The New Adventures of Old Christine (2006-present) is the closest any member of the cast of the great Seinfeld has come to appearing in a popular and critically successful show. Like Seinfeld the series has a general continuity with regular and semi-regular characters growing (or not) over the course of the series. Those new to the program should probably start with the First Season but, if for some reason you want to begin here fear not - the show's basic premise is helpfully restated in the new season's first episode.

Christine Campbell (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a neurotic, heavy-drinking divorced mother and owner of a Los Angeles-area women's gym. Ex-husband Richard (Clark Gregg) is a constant presence, partly because of the shared parenting duties with son Ritchie (Trevor Gagnon), but also because of their meshing, if alternately flirtatious and combative personalities. Christine's adult younger brother, Matthew (Hamish Linklater), also lives at Christine's house.

Other characters include Richard's current and much younger girlfriend, a cute but dim-witted young woman also named Christine (Emily Rutherfurd) - hence Louis-Dreyfus's character is disparagingly known as "Old Christine" while Rutherfurd's is "New Christine." Stand-up comedienne Wanda Sykes plays Barb, Old Christine's acerbic best friend and employee at the gym. Also appearing in most episodes are Marly and Lindsay (Alex Kapp Horner and Tricia O'Kelley), nosy and judgmental mothers at Ritchie's exclusive private school.

The core appeal of the show is Louis-Dreyfus's character and the talented actress's excellent performances. Created by actress-turned-writer and producer Kari Lizer, Christine is very much like a female, 21st century Rob Petrie, Dick Van Dyke's character from the classic 1961-66 sitcom. Like Van Dyke's character, most of the humor involves Christine constantly putting her foot in her mouth or otherwise creating embarrassing situations for herself, and the amusement of watching her vainly attempt to get out various humiliations, usually only digging a deeper hole for herself in the process.

As such Louis-Dreyfus gets to play a much funnier character than she did on Seinfeld, though overall the show so far isn't quite as good. On Seinfeld she was shallow and occasionally cruel. Her and that cast's disregard of others was part of its appeal, but here Christine is on the receiving end of others' callousness, while her sincere efforts to be a good mom or an attractive divorcee invite embarrassing situations. Louis-Dreyfus is genuinely superb in these kinds of situations; her squirmy, pained expressed are frequently hilarious.

The supporting cast is also good, especially Linklater in what most of the time involves playing straight man to Louis-Dreyfus's comical anxiety attacks; and Rutherford, playing a variation of her ditzy character from the underrated, short-lived The Ellen Show.

If there's a problem with the show, it's a lack of comic consistency in its scripts. Most of the shows light-heartedly address universal hang-ups over race, religion, separation, obsession, sex, etc., and the show works best when (Old) Christine's anxieties are recognizable as ones we ourselves have experienced ourselves. Like Seinfeld, Christine does well when it latches on to little truths about the way we conduct our chaotic lives, but less so when it falls back on eccentric, non sequitur humor that's wacky for its own sake and which feels out of place on a show like this, funny or not.

The series hasn't been a ratings blockbuster, and in its third and fourth seasons appears to be losing ground audience-wise. If its fourth season turns out to be its last that would be a shame, for it provides its star an unusually good character and all indications are that, like both The Dick Van Dyke Show and Seinfeld it's only getting better with age.

Video & Audio

The New Adventures of Old Christine: The Complete Second Season is presented in its original 16:9 widescreen format, enhanced for widescreen TVs. The video and audio are both up to contemporary standards; the image is bright and colorful, reflecting the bright and colorful set design for this multi-camera series, filmed before a live audience. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround is strong for what it is; a Dolby Surround track dubbed into Portuguese is included, as well as myriad optional subtitles: English, English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Portuguese.

Extra Features

Supplements are limited to deleted scenes and a very funny gag reel. Both extras are above average for this sort of thing and actually worth a look.

Parting Thoughts

The New Adventures of Old Christine: The Complete Second Season is a good sitcom, but not yet as consistently funny as Julia Louis-Dreyfus's performances or up to the full potential of her and her supporting characters. Still, it's a fun series and Recommended.

Film historian Stuart Galbraith IV's latest book, The Toho Studios Story, is on sale now.

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