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HTF DVD Review: Samantha Who? The Complete First Season (1 Viewer)

Neil Middlemiss

Senior HTF Member
Nov 15, 2001
Real Name
Neil Middlemiss

Samantha Who?
The Complete First Season

Studio: ABC Studios
Year: 2007-2008
Film Length: 322 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French Language Track
Subtitles: Spanish & French

US Release Date: September 23, 2008

The Show - :star::star::star::star: out of :star::star::star::star::star:

"Oh, I will be SO happy when you've finally experienced everything and that spark of wonder in your eyes finally goes dark again!"

Samantha Who? is a jaunt of a comedy, a light and playful farce whose premise writes a prescription for genuine comic fluff and for which the earnestness of being good is a jolly narrative. Upon this premise exists sly wit and slapstick moments, fleeting in and out over each 21 and a half minutes with strong, independent minded Sex and the City-esque women having real fun. This new sit-com premiered on ABC for the 2007-2008 season and stars Christina Applegate as the title character, Samantha Newly, who wakes up from an eight day coma with severe memory loss, an amnesia which means she remembers basic things but cannot remember a thing about herself or her past. This turns out to be a blessing in disguise as the Samantha who was hit by a car, which put her in the coma, wasn’t nice, friendly, liked or pleasant at all.

She awakens to find her life inhabited by oddball parents, a friend that has come back into her life after 20 years, an elitist and vacuous friend with little care for anyone but herself and a boyfriend which she had mistreated and cheated on before she was hit by the car. The old Sam trotted through her days as a lawyer with a flagrant disregard for anything that was not her want or need. But the new Sam has a good soul, a caring heart and an uphill battle being accepted as someone she certainly wasn’t before. A good premise for a sitcom and one that, despites some unevenness in the writing as the first season progresses, is ripe with possibilities.

Perhaps the most endearing element of Samantha Who? is the genuine ‘heart on its sleeve’ tone threaded amongst the comedic situations. As Samantha uncovers displeasing evidence of her former self, she is confronted with the chance to face head on the tenor of her past. Dramatically, the concept is ripe with possibilities but, intriguingly enough, it satisfies quite nicely as a less than traditional sit-com in an age where ‘sit-coms’ are becoming rare. Some of the conventions are here; friction among former lovers, selfish friends, oddball family members and a lead with a penchant for getting herself into socially uncomfortable positions. But it still comes off fresh.

Christina Applegate is clearly having fun in the lead role as Samantha. Serving also as executive producer, her comedic styling leans toward physical but doesn’t go too far. She plays the role with energy and spirit, surrounded by a cast that suits their roles well too. As her mother and father are Jean Smart and Kevin Dunn. As her self-serving and still mean-spirited friend Andrea is Jennifer Esposito and as her rotund, but truly funny and slightly desperate friend Dena is Melissa McCarthy. Her boyfriend Todd is played by Barry Watson (of What About Brian fame) and her wise and oft brutally honest doorman is Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager’s Tuvok). A fine cast who seem to have gotten their characters down right out of the gate.

The lightning pace of the Pilot episode slows down during the first, but just a bit. A lively show warmed by good performances and pulsing with lighthearted fun and sharp wit, it zips along happily. A likeable show that unfolds the mystery of Samantha as she pursues a life as someone new, seeking forgiveness for what she once was; dealing with the ‘old’ Sam that pops up in the life of ‘new’ Sam. Her fight to be a better person is, much like ‘Earl’s’ pursuit in My Name Is Earl, a nice feel-good ingredient that makes this show a little different. There are some imperfections; mostly script born, but not uncommon for a show finding its pacing, filling out its characters and uncovering the direction it naturally wants to take.

The Episodes

Disc One
1: Pilot
2: The Job
3: The Wedding
4: The Virgin
5: The Restraining Order
6: The Hypnotherapist
7: The Hockey Date
8: The Car
9: The Break-Up

Disc Two
10: The Girlfriend
11: The Boss
12: The Butterflies
13: The Gallery Show
14: The Affair
15: The Birthday

The Video - :star::star::star: out of :star::star::star::star::star:

ABC Studios presents Samantha Who? in widescreen format (1.78:1) and enhanced for widescreen televisions. With a reasonable sharpness and an appropriate bright tone, the image quality on this season one DVD release is fitting but not quite where it should be. Immediately noticeable is the level of noise in the image which, compared to similar recent releases, is surprising. It is a colorful show and that is represented here but the darker colors are not distinct, bleeding a little.

I don’t think the quality will disappoint, but it certainly isn’t as good as it could have been.

The Sound - :star::star::star: out of :star::star::star::star::star:

Samantha Who? comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio option. There really isn’t much activity in the surround speakers which, for the jazzy and upbeat musical transition interludes, misses an opportunity. The front channels, however, are busy with clear dialogue, and distortion free music and onscreen ambience.

A more fulfilling surround sound would have made this audio option a far more enjoyable experience, but, as it is, is juts average.

The Extra’s - :star::star:
out of :star::star::star::star::star:

Audio Commentary for ‘Pilot Episode’ by Shows Producers and Christina Applegate – This is a lighthearted commentary track from 2 of the show runners and lead star. It’s packed with comments, sometimes everyone talking at the same time, but the information shared is good and the participants clearly are enjoying themselves.

Samantha Whoops? – Blooper Reel – (1:09) – At just over a minute, this blooper reel is filled mostly with the cast deep in giggles and laughs. It would seem they had a better time making these flubs than we will watching them.

Deleted Scenes - Seven deleted scenes from the 15 episodes of season one, available with optional introduction by shows executive producer Donald Todd. Each is approximately a minute or less and was rightly removed from the show.

Final Thoughts

A good cast, a fun premise and quick pace set Samantha Who? apart from the often tired and trite sitcoms that get a shot at air time every season. Comedy shows not shot in front of a studio audience have gained the upper hand in quality. The days of Everybody Loves Raymond, Sienfeld and the like have been replaced with a new rush of shows that have taken the creative mantle and upped the production values. Those shows that still try their hand at filming in front of a studio audience have let their former ancestors down, in many cases greatly. With pedestrian efforts such as ’Til Death, Two and a Half Men (I’m not going to be popular for mentioning that one) and Back To You stumbling around with jokes and situations that looked much better the first 10 times they were seen, shows like Samantha Who? stand out by their concepts alone.

My view of traditional sitcoms aside, Samantha Who? is entertaining and worth checking out, if for no other reason than seeing the lovely Christina Applegate nail a character with energy and flair starting with the pilot and carrying on happily through the entire first season.

Overall Score - :star::star::star::star: out of :star::star::star::star::star:

Neil Middlemiss
Kernersville, NC

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