Dave Mekelburg
Applegate bounces back from “Married with Children.” (COURTESY OF ABC)

After a nine-month stint on Broadway, Christina Applegate (“Married with Children”) makes her return to primetime in ABC’s new comedy “Samantha Who?” As Samantha Newly, Applegate takes on the role of a 30-something retrograde amnesiac who, while attempting to piece together her former life, realizes she used to be a total bitch.

While the premise seems simple – woman loses memory, woman tries to get old life back – it takes some unexpected turns. After suffering a head injury from a hit-and-run, Samantha awakens from an eight-day comma unable to remember anything or anybody from her past.

Instead of divulging the details of her past life, the people around Samantha decide not to tell her that she was so disliked. But almost immediately after Samantha is released from the hospital, she realizes something is a little off.

Samantha quickly discovers she was cheating on her boyfriend, is a recovering alcoholic, has only one friend and hasn’t spoken to her parents in two years. It doesn’t take long for her to figure out that she may not want her old life back, and that her recent accident has given her an opportunity to turn her life around.

If “Samantha Who” is short on wit, the absurdity of Samantha’s situation gives it its legs. The idea that Samantha’s associates would use her condition for their own benefit is contrived but makes for good television. Her parents use her amnesia to dig their way back into her life while her only friend, Andrea (Jennifer Esposito, “Spin City”), belittles her accident so she can regain her sidekick. The one friend who seems like she might do Samantha some good, Dena (Melissa McCarthy, “Gilmore Girls”), uses Samantha’s situation to slip back into her life after years of separation.

If for nothing else, it’s worth watching a half hour of the show for the few minutes it flashes back to Samantha’s life before the accident. Applegate is let loose, no longer confined to the cute innocent girl, and she draws laughs by transforming into a batshit caricature of Samantha. Judging from the pilot, it seems Applegate can easily take on the lead role of a TV series, and she interacts well with her supporting cast that many television regulars.

“Samantha” also provides an alternative to the chiefly action-driven shows of this timeslot like NBC’s “Heroes” and Fox’s “K-Ville.” Its cool lightness makes for easy viewing and cheap laughs, a welcome respite from transparently testosterone-fueled shows.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Samantha Who?

Mondays at 9:30 p.m.


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