Character: Samantha Newly
Played Oh-So-Winningly By: Christina Applegate
In a Nutshell: There are two Samantha Newly’s, actually. The first is who Sam used to be- the selfish, bitchy, cutthroat 30 year-old vice president of a real estate company who lives to torment the little people who deign to live at her feet. Fortunately, for all of mankind, that Sam suffers a hit-and-run accident and then retrograde amnesia, forcing her to start living with a clean slate. Without all the hang-ups that led her to be the world’s biggest bully, Sam is now as sweet and guileless as can be (though not as “special” as that photo on the left would suggest), with the occasional horrifying flash of her old self. As the (short-lived. I hate you, ABC) series progresses, Sam is faced with more and more memories and constantly struggles with being the kind of good person she wants to be, all while traces of her old selfishness and vanity keep popping up at every turn. Along for the ride are her long-suffering ex-boyfriend/roommate Todd, old friend Dena who is well-meaning but exactly that type of woman you avoid at the dog park, her best friend Andrea (who loved the old, bitchy Sam), and her awesomely hilarious parents Howard and Regina (Jean Smart, who is on the list “Actors Who Should Star in Absolutely Everything”). Oh, and her doorman Frank who absolutely reviles her after years of brutal mistreatment from the old Sam.
Why We’ll Never Forget (Too much?): Oh, SAM. A high-concept like this could’ve been such a disaster but Samantha Who? made it work. A lot of that credit goes to the strong writing and the fantastic supporting characters but don’t underestimate Christina Applegate’s performance. As Sam, she’s an old-fashioned screwball comedy ingenue (I mean, really. Shouldn’t she have been forced to leave Ingenue Town a decade ago? Apparently not), eagerly hopping through the fast-paced episodes and the comical misunderstandings and embarrassing situations that hit her from every direction. In Applegate’s hands, Sam is adorable and funny and nowhere near as cloying as she could be- the flashes of horrible old Sam (with her pin-straight hair and killer short skirts, bad Sam actually looks a lot like you’d imagine Kelly Bundy would turn out if she had money. Maybe she should work for a fashion designer! I hear referee-style school uniforms are hot these days) are definitely a help, especially when they lead to new Sam’s equally horrified reaction to them.
Favorite Moments: Do yourself a favor and just watch. everything.