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TV Series Review

What would it feel like to be born again, to start fresh after years of mistakes and regrets? And what would you do with that second chance? In a sense, that's the central premise of Christina Applegate's new hit comedy on ABC, Samantha Who?

Applegate (Married With Children) plays Samantha Newly, a pretty thirtysomething who, after a hit-and-run accident leaves her in an eight-day coma, discovers she has amnesia. Each episode revolves around her efforts to reconstruct some semblance of a life and make amends for her "Old Samantha" days when she was a ruthless, booze-swilling vamp having an affair with a married man.

It's rough going because Old Samantha burned more bridges than Sherman in Atlanta. But she's determined to change. Her ex-boyfriend Todd (Barry Watson of 7th Heaven) wants to help, and she reunites with a plump, awkward childhood pal with whom she hasn't spoken in years. She tries to patch things up with her eccentric parents, tagging along with Dad on a hunting trip and talking with Mom over jigsaw puzzles. It's a well-written show with a first-rate cast and the courage to mention words such as "sin" and "forgiveness."

"Every day, we are brand new, really," Applegate said during a Good Morning America interview. "The show is really about what would you do if you could start over, right in this moment—what would you do with your life, and how would you behave?"

But while Samantha Who?'s heart might be in the right place, its mind is in the gutter.

Take the episode titled "The Virgin." It seems Samantha can't remember ever having sex (though intermittent flashbacks make it fairly clear that she has), and the show becomes a tawdry will-she-or-won't-she tale, with friends and family egging her on to do the deed. Mom even shows up at a nightclub, grabs her by the shoulders and says, "Come on, let's get my little girl laid." Samantha makes a relatively noble choice at the end, but that doesn't sponge clean an episode sullied by inappropriate sexual content. Other episodes have been marginally better, but they still sport bad language, alcohol, tobacco use and Applegate parading about in her underwear.

Then there are Samantha's self-absorbed, dysfunctional friends and family. They may make the show funny (one reason it has supplanted Two and a Half Men as television's No. 1 comedy), but are terrible examples of how folks should treat each other.

Were it possible to pick through the mixed messages and develop selective amnesia to block the sexuality and language (which, admittedly, would obliterate whole episodes), Samantha Who? would be a treat. As it is, we should forget all about it.

Episodes Reviewed: Oct. 15, 22, 30, Nov. 5, 12, 19, 2007

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