Friday, May 7, 2010

Who? Who Killed Samantha?

After an AP exam-induced break from blogging, I'm back to lament a great show shoved off the air by its network simply because the network couldn't figure out where to put it: Samantha Who?, the Christina Applegate-anchored sitcom about a pretty blonde amnesiac trying to reform her image post-car accident.

Applegate was winningly charming as Samantha Newly, the centerpiece of a warm, fun ensemble that included The Nines' Melissa McCarthy as former and new (it's complicated) best friend Dena, Crash's Latina cop Jennifer Esposito as the absolutely killer scene-stealing drunkard Andrea (that's Ahn-drea, not Ann-drea), 24's former First Lady Jean Smart, Vicky Cristina Barcelona blank slate Kevin Dunn, deadpan doorman Tim Russ, and 7th Heaven's eldest son Barry Watson. Each of them is infinitely better here than in any of their other projects, with Smart (deservedly) winning an Emmy for her role as Samantha's mother.

The acting ensemble was fantastic, but it was the writing, which could always have lapsed into goofy and overly-broad but always stayed smart and insanely funny, that really made this show great. It had more pacing than either Glee or 30 Rock has, and remained similarly funny, if not as over-the-top as those two programs. Not only that, but it knew the strengths of each of its players and played to those strengths, something Rock didn't really understand until halfway through its second season (and that Glee still doesn't understand, or else it wouldn't have Mr. Schuester rap...).

Why I'm bashing so hard on those two shows, despite them being two of my favorite shows on the air, is because in both of their cases, they were allowed the time to grow and gain an audience despite poor initial ratings. Samantha had great ratings behind Dancing With The Stars, yet was tossed from time slot to time slot until ABC eventually had enough of an excuse to cancel it. Of course, with shows like Modern Family, it sure seemed like they made the right decision, but if you think about it, how was Scrubs' awful last season or the dreadfully rated Better Off Ted more worthy of pickup than this gem?

For all the networks that are excited about their new fall lineups (which, I'll admit, actually look very good), they should remember that sometimes, a show takes a while to get off the ground. When they come across the instant hit that Samantha was, they shouldn't take it for granted.

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