Nothing new about ‘Old Christine’

Archana Ram

The Seinfeld curse has put Jerry, George and Kramer on shaky ground. Michael Richards couldn’t leave Kramer behind in the short-lived series, The Michael Richards Show; Bob Patterson didn’t give Jason Alexander (George) a shelf life; and Jerry Seinfeld, although he continued doing standup (his true calling), never had another show. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the only one of the Seinfeld quartet to translate her past success into present gold. “That’s gold, Jerry, gold!” as Kenny Banya would say.

In her second attempt at a television comeback, The New Adventures of Old Christine, she plays a recently-divorced mother who struggles with her ex-husband’s new girlfriend, also named Christine, and the judgmental moms at her son’s private school.

In Monday’s episode, Christine throws a birthday party for her son, Ritchie, that doesn’t involve huge decorations, gourmet food and Teri Hatcher, like the parties his rich classmates have. Christine wants to show these moms that all a birthday party needs is good, clean, (cheap) fun. The episode revels in the frustration for which Elaine was so famous.

But therein lies the problem: When can we let go of old characters and embrace the new?

Louis-Dreyfus is a phenomenal actor, which makes her easier to accept as someone other than Elaine. To help her is Hamish Linklater, who plays Christine’s live-in brother, Matthew, who matches Louis-Dreyfus’ timing. The rest of the cast, including Clark Gregg and Emily Rutherfurd, fade into the background.

Unfortunately, the show itself lacks originality. It mimics other CBS sitcoms with quirky families and bratty children (Yes, Dear and Two and a Half Men).

What Louis-Dreyfus needs is smart writing and an equally gifted supporting cast in a fresh series that distances her from the neurotic Manhattanite she once played. Then, she will truly be master of her domain.

The New Adventures of Old Christine airs at 8:30 p.m. Mondays on CBS.

– Archana Ram