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Yep, "Old Christine" Still Makes Me Laugh

If I rarely talk about Old Christine, it's not because I've stopped watching. In fact, I haven't given up on the series, which this season has been a little hit or miss in the quality department.

Some episodes have been a little too sitcom-y (as in the comedy derives from the situation, rather than the characters themselves, like in the rock-climbing episode), rather than the witty and acerbic comedy that fans of the series have come to know and love.

However, this week's episode of Old Christine ("House") was a return to the strengths of the series, focusing on the relationships between the core characters and on the tempest in a teacup herself, Christine Campbell, who--after watching a tearful episode of Oprah--decides to be more like Ms. Winfrey and send back happiness into the world, rather than her typically selfish responses of wishing heart disease on happy people.

It's a character transformation that is tested when Richard and New Christine buy Old Christine's dream house and transform it into a beautiful home for them and Ritchie, complete with Martha Stewart-quality baking, framed photographs of the three of them, and Christine's old couch, sans pee smell. It immediately sends Christine into the deep end, not least of all for her craptacular house, which she quickly makes even more bizarre, by wedging both a couch (the aforementioned pee-stained one) and a set of bunk beds in various apertures of the house.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is absolutely a joy to watch as Old Christine and, even after three seasons of selfish behavior, her energy and starpower hasn't been dimmed by playing such a self-absorbed and thoughtless character. Her reaction, after she, Barb, and Matthew have gotten the couch wedged into the main entryway of the house, is absolutely priceless. In her capable hands, Christine becomes more than just a madwoman: she is the anxious ball of energy inside all of us, jumping on the couch in fury and frustration in equal measure.

Likewise, Wanda Sykes proves herself to be the perfect foil for Louis-Dreyfus. Best friend Barb is low-key and opinionated but seems to be the only one (aside from her co-dependent brother Matthew, desperately in need of a haircut) who can cut Christine down to size with a pithy comment. Plus, her rationale last night for not liking when "people look like things that aren't people" was hysterical. I'm glad to see that the producers are wisely including the embittered Barb into Christine's dysfunctional family life.

Plus, who didn't just roll on the floor when they saw that typically awkward family photo of Old Christine gripping on to Ritchie for dear life while the boy squirmed uncomfortably? Or Christine's attempt at home cooking, complete with those "raisins"?

All in all, a fantastically funny installment of a series that more people should be watching. As someone who typically finds the most humor in the single-camera surreal comedy of series like 30 Rock and The Office, Old Christine is a vivid reminder that multi-camera series needn't be trite or dumbed-down in order to work. Let's just hope CBS remembers that when handing out renewals for next season...

Comments

Anonymous said…
This episode was hysterical. It's not often that a traditional sitcom sends me into a fit of laughter but Old Christine does it again and again. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is truly one of the most talented female comedians around. Not only does she have great timing and delivery but, as seen in last night's "couch incident," she can pull off the physical comedy as well. I just wish that she, and the show, would get the attention they deserve!
Christine's heroic attempt to get that couch through the door was Lucille Ball funny!
Lisa said…
The show is great, as you say. CBS isn't helping anybody discover the show, however -- they don't offer episodes online, which is a big mistake.
This show should be getting more buzz, and god knows it's been hanging in there despite it. With two wonderful comediennes like Tina Fey and Dreyfus on TV now, we should be truly grateful!

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