Stuff Moms Like: The New Adventures of Old Christine

 

So, when I started to brainstorm for the next septuagenarian to write about, I realized that the Future Golden Girl thing had already gotten a little gimmicky. Sure you know there’s a “Hot in Cleveland” post in me somewhere, and yes it’s likely that I will eventually want to sing out, sing out my love for Harold and Maude, but I don’t want to write about any old, well, old person, just because he or she is there. (I’m looking at you, Regis Philbin.) I’ve got broader interests—I like middle-aged lady things as well! Thus, the inaugural post of “Stuff Moms Like,” a (hopefully) regular feature dedicated to things that young girls (like me) don’t always appreciate, but older women (like yo’ mama) probably live for. First up, “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”

Why do I consider “The New Adventures of Old Christine” to be something moms like? Probably because my mom likes it. In fact, she really likes it, maybe loves it, and has definitely been going steady with it for sometime. I, sadly, have to admit that I never got into the show while it was still on the air. My mom used to watch it on demand, the second she got a free moment, and laugh her head off; I couldn’t be bothered until it started airing eight times a day on Lifetime. This doesn’t reflect poorly on the show, but rather on me (both for my stubborn unwillingness to give it a try and my slavish obedience to the Lifetime network). As it turns out, “Old Christine” is hilarious.

The show centers around not only “Old Christine,” played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but also a strong ensemble cast. In the earliest episodes, Christine is recently divorced from Richard, but hasn’t yet transitioned into legitimate single-hood. She’s enjoying a very amicable split that, in fact, looks a lot like marriage. She and Richard, who have an 8-year-old son, Ritchie, remain best friends, and even act affectionately toward one another. They have not yet confronted the awkwardness that ensues when one partner begins dating someone else…that is, until Christine learns that Richard has been seeing a cute twenty-something blonde, also named Christine. From there, the show becomes a study in the interesting dynamics involved in a series of complicated relationships. Introduced into the mix are Christine’s younger brother Matthew, who is as dorky as he is witty, and her best friend Barb, who is as witty as she is mean. Matthew and Barb are grounding forces in Christine’s life, although they, of course, have their own issues to work out.

The actors who portray these characters—Clark Gregg as Richard, Emily Rutherfurd as “New Christine,” Hamish Linklater as Matthew, and Wanda Sykes as Barb—help make these characters especially memorable. Each has notable comedic talent; although this is no surprise for established comedians like Wanda Sykes and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, it is an exciting discovery in lesser-known actors like Hamish Linklater. Indeed, maybe because I have an awkward crush on him, I would argue that Linklater is the biggest find on this gem of a show. He is funny, endearing, and weirdly attractive at times. His Matthew serves as a great foil to perceived alpha male, Richard, and his creepy relationship with his mother (and at one point an Old Christine look-a-like) can always be milked for laughs.

Of course, Old Christine is the heart of the show, and in fact “The New Adventures of Old Christine” is probably best known as Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s return to a successful sitcom. One of the great things about Louis-Dreyfus is that she plays Old Christine without a shred of vanity: she is more than willing to make a complete ass of herself. She can look like a total mess, a total idiot, or a total jerk, and yet still be endearing because she commits to it. This is not the kind of show that plays it safe with likable characters—everyone has a tendency to succumb to their insecurities and baser instincts, and that’s why it works. Perhaps this is what makes it more appealing to a slightly older audience: these viewers couldn’t care less what people think of them, and they can relate to that utter disregard for pretense found in these characters. Of course, the show can be appreciated by anyone who’s looking for something that’s just plain funny.

“The New Adventures of Old Christine” is a solid sitcom that offers thirty minutes of quality diversion. It can be picked up at any episode, and watched multiple times; it’s not to be appreciated so much for its continuity and story arcs as it is for its well-drawn characters and unexpected jokes. Currently airing on Lifetime about thirty times a day, it is both super available and super funny. And, at the very least, it’s not another rerun of “Reba.”

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