Sunday, September 28, 2008

The New Adventures of Old Christine

tTy (Third Estate Sunday Review): The New Adventures of Old Christine is a sitcom starring Emmy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Christine or Old Christine. It's been all over the CBS schedule and season four finds it airing in the first half-hour of prime time on Wednesdays. The cast includes Hamish Linklater as Christine's brother Matthew, Wanda Sykes as her best friend and business partner Barb, Clark Gregg as her ex-husband Richard and Emily Rutherfurd as New Christine, the woman her ex-husband is involved with. Christine and Richard have a son Richice who goes to grade school and two mothers at the school who torment Christine are Lindsay and Marly. Again, in the fourth season, the show has moved to Wednesday nights. We're trying to do our part to make sure everyone's aware of that and this feature is just us sharing our favorite episodes. Betty?


Betty (Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man): "Open Water" from the first season. I have the first two seasons on DVD and this was the show's third episode. It's funny for a number of reasons including learning how Christine's ex-husband Richard met New Christine. The introduction came via a character who makes her first appearance in this episode, Barb played by Wanda Sykes. I love this show and laugh throughout each episode. But, as the mother of three children, one of the reasons I'm glad the show is on the air is because, unlike all of CBS' other sitcoms, Black people are on the show. You have Wanda who finally has a TV role that's worthy of her as Christine's best friend Barb and when my oldest son started watching, Daniel Harris who was played by Blair Underwood. Christine was interested in him in season two and they broke up during season three. The show's worth watching just for the laughs but, I've talked about this before, my kids do notice that the bulk of the shows on TV have no Black performers. My oldest son can follow the show and some of the jokes might be too adult for young viewers but I don't think that's really a problem. My daughter, who is the baby, lays on the living floor with her coloring books when the show's on. She finds everything Wanda says hilarious. She'll let out this loud laugh and say, "She's funny, right Mommy?" And, yes, she is; however, it's really matters to me that my kids can grow up seeing a Black woman on TV who didn't just get busted for drugs or prostitution and is telling the White detective about some other crime to lighten her sentence. If I can add one more thing, I really identify with Christine and I think you will too if your a single mother. She'll make bigger mistakes than you do but you will recognize the mistakes and laugh.

Jim (Third Estate Sunday Review): I'm going with a season three episode which is titled "New Adventures of Old Christine." This is after Christine's broken up with Mr. Harris and she's trying to get on with her life. She wins the big on tickets to the opera and she goes twice. At the start of the episode, she goes with her brother Matthew and his date and her ex-husband Richard and New Christine. They and everyone around them are making out so Christine ends up hugging the ice chest. New Christine begs her to let her fix her up with a lawyer from her work place. They meet up at the opera and the guy's name is Timmy. He's obviously not a lawyer. He tells her he hasn't passed the bar yet and also compliments her mouth which does the trick because Christine's always seeking a compliment. A running gag on the series is how Christine loves her wine. Timmy doesn't have his i.d. on him so they can't get wine. He says if Christine will drive him to his house he can grab it. At his house, they hit it off until they're making out on the couch and his mother walks into the room. Timmy's not almost a lawyer. He's in high school. If that doesn't sound funny enough, after Christine makes it home, Timmy shows up at her door announcing he's run away from home. Matthew's having a lot of fun at her expense during that section. And Julia does the shift from awkward to angry to concerned really well. It's a very funny episode.

Mike (Mikey Likes It!): And the best line in that episode is Matthew's. Christine says, "Why did I let you talk me into a fix up? It was a disaster. His mother caught us kissing on the couch!" Matthew replies, "Oh my God! Is she gonna' call our mom? You're gonna' be so grounded." My favorite episode is also from season three. It's the pot episode. Christine and Barb, they own a gym, are going through the lost and found items and they find a tiny joint in a purse. Christine says they need to get rid of it and Barb grabs it promising to get rid of it. Christine wants to smoke it too and Barb tells her she's not that kind of person. Christine insists she is and, since her son Richie's with his father that night, they should smoke it at her place. Barb shows up skeptical and Christine's overdoing everything -- which is part of why she's so funny. As they're getting ready to light it up, Richard and his friend played by Kids in the Hall David Foley walk in so Christine hides the joint by throwing it down her pants. After the guys leave, Christine's fishing around in her pants trying to get the joint and Barb has this look of disgust on her face that's just hilarious. They decide to smoke it in the garage and though Christine's acting like she's majorly stoned, Barb's explaining to her that there wasn't enough to get high. Christine's desperate to get some pot and asks Matthew and that's a running bit in the episode, everyone thinks Matthew's a stoner. She and David Foley go looking for pot and never find it but do go out on date which allows Christine to finally finish something she started. Meanwhile, Barb and Matthew are making out in the garage. The episode is "Burning Down The House" and Matthew and Barb get the two funniest lines. When Barb's explaining that her husband Pete is the only man she's ever been with and she's not sure what it will be like with other men, Matthew tells her, "Well Pete was 6'5" with a size fourteen shoe so you might wanna' start by lowering your expectations." And at the start when Christine can't believe Barb is going to "smoke reefer," Barb tells her it is just like wine. Christine says, "Oh, Barb, it is not. When was the last time you ever heard of somebody getting addicted to wine?" Barb tells her, "Talk to the guys who collect your recycling." Like Jim said, Christine's love of wine is a running gag on the show.

Elaine (Like Maria Said Paz): I'm going with the third season's "Popular" in which Christine has a chance to be, yes, popular. There's a new parent in the mix at the school and Christine's attempting to turn him into her friend. Marly and Lindsay, not yet mentioned, are two mothers who loathe Christine and make her life miserable since they control the school her son Richie goes to. So the new father offers, Christine hopes, a chance to turn that around. It doesn't happen. He thinks she's the mean mom and Marly and Lindsay are nice. Christine ends up becoming popular with Marly Lindsay, however, so popular that she notes, "I haven't been this popular since the nympho rumor went around about me during high school. I'm not a nympho -- just regular." But Christine is now popular and she gets to sit with popular parents during a recital. But all that happens is the parents have every thing to do except pay attention to their children on stage. Christine's a flawed character and that's what makes her funny but she will also do the right thing when it has to be done. In this episode she explodes at the talking parents so that she can share her son's performance. I'm sure there are a few running gags in there but that's the part that stood out to me.

Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix): That was a strong episode and season three has a great deal of them. My pick is from season three as well, "Traffic." This is when Christine and Daniel are still a couple. She has two things going on nearly at once, a softball game her son's in and a dinner with Daniel. She's so rushed that she doesn't have time to stop at home and change her clothes so, while they're in the car, she demands that New Christine swap clothes with her. And Richard has a good moment in the car as the Christine's are starting to change. Barb, at one point, offers to watch Richie. This is when Barb's marriage is falling apart and she explains, "If you want, Richice can come with me. I'll be scratching dirty words in the door of Pete's Mercedes. And then we'll get ice cream!" Wanda Sykes has a lot of fun with the lines. Christine's got a really good one that episode as well when she's running late, "I would've called you but yesterday I dropped my cell phone in the toilet. After. So I left it there." It's a really funny episode and part of a series of episodes that explains why Christine and Daniel won't work as a couple -- their schedules never mesh.

Rebecca (Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude): I'm glad no one's called mine yet and should probably explain that the order was chosen ahead of time and that we were informed if someone grabbed our favorite episode and we didn't have a back up, we should jump in and add to the discussion of that episode. Mine is when Christine and Daniel are still dating, season three, "Beauty Is Only Spanx Deep." Let me back up and explain that "New" Christine is younger than Christine. Richard, Christine's ex-husband, is older than "New" Christine. So with that in mind, and remembering Blair Underwood plays Daniel, the two couples double-date. It's awkward at the table immediately and New Christine tries to get a conversation started with no luck. The server comes to their table and things get really bad. He assumes Daniel is with New Christine and that Christine and Richard are their parents. Richard says he's fine with the fact that he's dating out of his league but he's not and has a huge panic. But Christine has no ability to self-censor and it's clear that she's upset. She makes a decision which my favorite line from the episode explains, "I want to feel better about myself and the only way I can think to do that, short of diet and exercise, is plastic surgery." In the end she doesn't have plastic surgery but it's a very funny episode. And I really like the tension at the table when the two couples go out on a double date.

Dona (Third Estate Sunday Review): We have a time limit that we're close to missing so I'll be very brief. "One and a Half Man," also in the third season. In this one, Richie's got a big thing and Richard wants to be in charge. He's very insistent that this falls under his area and not Christine's. The entire cast is great but just to give Richard credit, there's a really charming scene where he takes Richie to the tailor's to be fitted for a suit. Richie complains that everything's too big and Richard's explaining various things to him. Then Richie says, "My weiner itches." Richard replies, with the perfect look on his face, "That's part of wearing a suit. That's why they give you long pants." It's a funny moment. And, for the record, we're not commenting on Richie. He's a child actor and we're following Ava and C.I.'s lead there.

Ty (Third Estate Sunday Review): I'm actually next and we drew for the order. I'll try to be quick as well. My favorite is season two's "Undercover Brother." In this one, Richard's brother comes to visit and stays over at Christine's. Funniest line is probably Matthew's when he says to Christine, "Oh congratulations! You've now been with your cousin, New Christine's father and your ex-husband's brother. You're almost ready to start dating outside the family!" Matthew's always got some good lines. But Richard's brother isn't interested in Christine, he's hiding the fact that he's gay. That secret will emerge in a non-very-special manner and the comedy will remain intact throughout largely because as the big reveal gears up, you've got Matthew and Richard stuck in Christine's car which is trash dump on wheels.

Kat [Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills)]: And I'm next up. Barb and Matthew have been mentioned a lot. Richard and New Christine are funny, no question. But I think most of us enjoy Barb and Matthew the most of the supporting characters. My pick is season three's "The Happy Couple." When Barb and Matthew finally do the deed. It's very funny. Afterwards, they're talking and Barb says she regrets saying "come to Mama" and Matthew adds, "Me too." Now twice before Matthew and Barb have made out and done everything but -- there's the pot episode and also when Richie has a camping trip and Barb and Matthew get stuck in the cold in a car that runs out of gas and have to keep warm. But this is the official make out episode. Christine's reaction is to hit the roof and forbid it because Christine usually sees every thing first as how it effects her. It's a very funny episode and just to add one more thing. The show really benefitted from adding Barb as Christine's business partner. The gym thing could have played out like some subplot in Sally Struthers' Gloria sitcom. Barb took it an entirely different direction. And that's partly because, as Cedric pointed out, Wanda Sykes knows how to do suprising things with funny lines.

Wally (The Daily Jot): I'm next. I'm going with the first season and with the episode "Supertramp." This is the episode Ava and C.I. praised. It was aired the same night as the pilot and it really is so much stronger than the pilot. Christine is never as 'bad' as she wants to be. In this episode, she meets a guy and sleeps with him. She thinks she's so daring. All the tension is out of her body and Marly and Lindsay notice when all the parents are dropping their children off at school. They immediately guess that Christine's had sex and Christine's trying to act like she is just this wild woman and that Marly and Lindsay have completely misunderstood who she is. That's when Andy Richter shows up, he's playing the man she slept with. And he's known at the school as "Sad Dad." It's really funny to watch Julia play Christine's swaggering and immediately just shift over into embarrassment. It's really a funny show and the second episode made clear where it was headed. If I can make one more comment quickly, that should tie in with what Ruth's about to talk about, the show does not take place in Mayberry. It takes place today. Christine wears a "Peace" t-shirt in this episode.

Ruth (Ruth's Report): I've watched this year's first episode, that aired Wendesday, three times now and I really think that's my favorite one. Like Wally's saying, the series takes place today. It's also set in California. So the legalization of same-sex marriage was worked into the season debut. Barb and Pete have broken up. They're divorced and Barb's attorney explains to her that she may have to leave the country. She tells Christine that she came into the country on a student visa, then met Pete and they were married for ten years. Christine's insisting that Barb can't be deported because she's from Jamacia. One of Christine's funniest qualities is she always thinks she's smarter than she is. In this case, she thinks that country is part of the United States. Next up, Matthew will suggest that Christine should marry Barb so she can stay in the country. Christine tells Matthew, with a look that says "you're so stupid," that two women can't marry. Christine's understanding of "gay marriage" is that it only applies to two men. When that's quickly cleared up, she'll propose to Barb noting how much their friendship means. Then Richard will show up and be surprised by it and Christine will start saying that two women can get married, gay marriage isn't just for men. You really have to see the look on her face during that. But anyway, Christine and Matthew really get into the wedding. Matthew's into being the wedding planner and Christine's into getting married because Richard is proposing to New Christine throughout the episode and she wants to beat Richard down the aisle. Barb calls off the wedding when Pete offers to remarry her. Even though it was only a marriage so Barb could stay in the country, Christine takes it very hard. At the end, Barb shows up and decided she'd rather owe Christine than Pete and they get married. It's a very funny episode and you won't find many sitcoms that will tackle this.

Jess (Third Estate Sunday Review): Agreed and it's very funny when they go to get their marriage license. And there are funny bits of Christine's vanity throughout like when she insists Barb's Ethel while she's Lucy and when Barb asks why she'll grimace and say don't make me say it. She does the same thing when Barb asks why she's the groom. I'm second to last and I'll try to hurry so that Marcia has time to speak. Some of my favorites have been named. Ava and C.I. are working on a different feature and they suggested one I'd forgotten. Season three "Between A Rock and a Hard Place." In this episode, Matthew's seeing a therapist as part of his college degree plan and Christine's just broken up with Mr. Harris and having a real hard time. She finally decides that she's mourned enough and she takes Richie to a classmate's birthday party. They have a wall that you can climb at the party. Richie doesn't want to because the harness hurts his crotch. While he goes off for cake, Christine decides to climb the wall and she's full of energy and telling the new father at the school that he can look at her ass while she climbs and then asking him not to. So she starts climbing. Matthew's doing his therapy and insisting he's not too attached to his sister. His phone goes off and he doesn't want to answer it, he knows it's his sister. The therapist has suggested he needs to put distance between himself and Christine. Because Christine's stuck on the wall, Matthew goes to help. He climbs the wall to try to talk her down. She's freaking out over the breakup with Mr. Harris and feeling alone in the world and needs Matthew to hug her. He's behind her on the wall and she's reaching around with her hands and grabbing him to pull him on top of her. It's a very funny sequence for Matthew and Christine. When she's finally down from the wall, she goes to see his therapist with him and rips the woman apart but ends up making an appointment for therapy. It's a funny episode. Marcia?

Marcia (SICKOFITRADLZ): A lot of good episodes. I had three episodes handy and two were picked so I'll go with "Faith Off." In this episode, Christine has had a great subway sandwich but can't remember where she bought it. Meanwhile, Richie's trying to find out about church. Christine has to explain how they're religious but don't go to church and it's a funny bit. She ends up going to church with Richie. And that's even funnier. At the church, she has an epiphany: she remembers where she had the sandwich. It's a very funny episode. I'll repeat what everyone else has said about the cast and the writing. Whether it's Barb, Matthew, Richard, New Christine, Lindsay and Marly or whomever, there are some really strong supporting characters and Julia works so well with all of them. It's a great show to watch.

Ty: And The New Adventures of Old Christine is now airing Wednesday nights on CBS' first half-hour of prime time. There are not a lot of sitcoms with women in them and this is one where a woman is the lead. She's not whining at Ray or Doug like any number of women sidelined for most of the decade. She is the mix. And it is a comedy set very much in today's world. There are many reasons to watch it and hopefully something we've shared has made you consider tuning in if you haven't already.
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