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"The New Adventures of Old Christine" The Complete Third Season DVD Review

Buy The New Adventures of Old Christine: The Complete Third Season from WBShop.com The New Adventures of Old Christine: Season Three (2008)
Show & DVD Details

Writers: Kari Lizer (also creator), Jeff Astrof, Jennifer Crittenden, Aaron Shure, Frank Pines, Katie Palmer, Lew Schneider, Amy Iglow, Allan Rice / Director: Andy Ackerman

Regular Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Christine Campbell), Clark Gregg (Richard Campbell), Hamish Linklater (Matthew Kimble), Trevor Gagnon (Ritchie Campbell), Emily Rutherfurd (Christine Hunter), Tricia O'Kelley (Marly Ehrhardt), Alex Kapp Horner (Lindsay), Wanda Sykes (Barb Baran)

Recurring Characters: Blair Underwood (Mr. Daniel Harris), Tom Papa (Mike Gay), Mary McDonoghue (Mrs. Wilhoite), Lily Goff (Ashley Ehrhardt), Marissa Blanchard (Kelsey)

Notable Guest Stars: Andy Richter (Stan), Ali Hillis (Denise), Miranda Kent (Receptionist), Stephanie Faracy (Dr. Jacobson), Sally Pressman (Melanie), Ben Feldman (Timmy), Gigi Rice (Shelley), Marcy McCusker (Bree), Dave Foley (Tom), Jason Alexander (Dr. Palmer)

Running Time: 220 Minutes (10 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: July 27, 2010; List Price: $24.95
Season 3 Airdates: February 4, 2008 - March 31, 2008
Two single-sided, single-layered discs (2 DVD-5 DVD-Rs); Clear Keepcase

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As far as curses go, the so-called "Seinfeld" curse isn't a very big one. Compared to those affected by the Poltergeist curse, which supposedly deals the horror series' cast members premature death, or even the Curse of the Bambino, which kept the Boston Red Sox title-less for nearly a century, the actors who starred one of the most successful sitcoms of all-time don't have it so bad. Their purported hex has been simply getting multiple opportunities to star in television series that don't take off. Half-season failures like "The Michael Richards Show" and Jason Alexander's "Bob Patterson" are long forgotten.
Meanwhile, the "Seinfeld" troupe continues to be richly compensated for the show's endless syndication deals.

Any stock in the "Seinfeld" curse seems to have diminished with the success of Julia Louis-Dreyfus' CBS comedy "The New Adventures of Old Christine". While it won't be the thing Louis-Dreyfus is best remembered for, the traditional multi-camera sitcom ran for five seasons and won the actress an Emmy in 2006.

As its long title tries to cleverly convey, "Old Christine" centers on a woman who is starting life again following a divorce. Los Angeles fortysomething Christine Campbell (Louis-Dreyfus) has a timid 10-year-old son named Ritchie (Trevor Gagnon), who only features when the show needs him to. Christine remains on good terms with her ex-husband, Richard (Clark Gregg), who has moved onto a relationship with "New" Christine (Emily Rutherfurd). Old Christine's emotionally stunted younger brother Matthew (Hamish Linklater) lives in her guest house as a sounding board, an arrangement that lends itself to B storylines and plenty of incest jokes. Rounding out the core with an "and" credit is Wanda Sykes, playing Barb, the sassy (what else?) best friend bent on taking vengeance on her unseen ex-husband.

Self-centered divorcιe Christine Campbell (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) longingly holds a photo depicting what she'd look like with cosmetically-enhanced lips and breasts. After much anticipation, the efforts of Christine and Mr. Harris (Blair Underwood) to get physical are derailed by Girl Scout cookies.

Sitcoms have long relied more on telling than showing, but "Old Christine" takes this notion to new extremes. Nobody does anything; halfway into this season, I knew only one character's calling. Now you may be thinking, "Seinfeld", one of the most heralded sitcoms ever, is famously described as a "show about nothing." But what nothing that was, obsessing over hilarious minutiae that people recognize and empathize with but most TV writers wouldn't think to put on primetime.

The nothing of "Old Christine" is far less inspired; nearly every scene focuses on Christine, who doesn't give us a great deal to work with beyond neurotic self-centeredness. Louis-Dreyfus is clearly a capable lead and she elevates material that wouldn't have a chance in the hands of a less entertaining performer. But she can only do so much with jokes about aging, sex, and grooming. Though the comedy is never flat enough to elicit groans, it is often too stale and toothless to reward with anything more than the occasional smile and rare laugh.

Season 3 was supposed to run 13 episodes from a midseason debut but the writers' strike left it with just ten. The first half of those deal primarily with Christine's relationship with her "black boyfriend" (how edgy!) Daniel (recurring guest Blair Underwood). By the season's fourth episode, Christine reclaims the single status that television writers far prefer. The second half of the abbreviated year avoids arcs (besides a semi-two-parter coupling Matthew and Barb) in favor of standalone stories. They do a better job of sharing the spotlight and are much more amusing than Christine and Daniel's formula romance.

Comic supporting characters Matthew (Hamish Linklater) and Barb (Wanda Sykes) briefly flirt with couple status, to Christine's horror. Snobby blonde private school moms Marly (Tricia O'Kelley) and Lindsay (Alex Kapp Horner) offer recurring dismissal of Christine and her family.

The DVD history of "Old Christine" illustrates it isn't as popular as most of its contemporaries, which typically receive a Complete Season collection in time for the next season's September premiere. The 13-episode debut of "Old Christine" took a little longer than that, reaching stores right before Season 3 took to the air in February of 2008. The Complete Second Season followed in June 2008.
Since then, while the show's audience dwindled to half its original size, the series has been in home video limbo accompanied by many a moderately popular TV show that owners haven't leased out ("Family Ties", "The Jeffersons", "Growing Pains") and those more popular but more costly to clear ("The Wonder Years", "Malcolm in the Middle").

Now, two months after the final episode of "Old Christine" aired, Warner tries to make a DVD release of the show work without the costs and competition of general retail. The Complete Third Season is presently available as a "Made to Order" DVD (or, as the case calls it, "DVD Download"). Warner has been at the forefront of the made to order movement, with their 2009-launched Warner Archive Collection designed to meet but not exceed demand for catalog titles that retail costs, a voluminous marketplace, and limited appeal would otherwise prohibit from receiving a DVD release.

Customers haven't been unanimously satisfied with the exclusive product, which offers fewer bells and whistles than usual and at prices typically a little higher than those found in stores. But enough people have been grateful just to own rare movies from the past that they remember fondly. Over 600 titles have come to disc through the program, most of them far older and more obscure than this 21st century network sitcom.

Christine lays out all the enhancements she puts on to go out in "Beauty is Only Spanx Deep." Barb (Wanda Sykes) and Daniel (Blair Underwood) realize they don't much care for each other's company while awaiting a delayed Christine. Fellow private school parent Mike Gay (Tom Papa) tries to talk a depressed Christine down from a rock climbing wall.

Disc 1

1. The Big Bang (21:58) (Originally aired February 4, 2008)
Christine worries about getting sexual with Daniel. Matthew decides to drop out of med school.

2. Beauty is Only Spanx Deep (21:55) (Originally aired February 11, 2008)
Worrying that Daniel is too good-looking for her, Christine considers plastic surgery.

3. Popular (21:36) (Originally aired February 18, 2008)
While mentoring the parent (Tom Papa) of a new student at Ritchie's school, Christine tries being nice to snobby moms Marly (Tricia O'Kelley) and Lindsay (Alex Kapp Horner).

4. Traffic (21:57) (Originally aired February 25, 2008)
Christine and Daniel have trouble finding time to get together.

5. Between a Rock and a Hard Place (21:58) (Originally aired March 3, 2008)
Christine comes to terms with being dumped, mostly while on a rock climbing wall at her son's party.

A blind date sets up Old Christine with a younger man named Timmy (Ben Feldman). Looking for pot, Christine settles for an in-car fast food meal with a man whose name she can't remember (Dave Foley). Perimenopausal symptoms give us reason for Julia Louis-Dreyfus to parade around sweaty in a bra, with underarm popsicles to cool her down.

Disc 2

6. The New Adventures of Old Christine (21:56) (Originally aired March 10, 2008)
New Christine sets up Old Christine on a blind date with a much younger man (Ben Feldman).

7. House (21:59) (Originally aired March 10, 2008)
When Christine can't stay happy about Richard and New Christine's newly-purchased dream house, she tries to redecorate her own home.

8. Burning Down the House (21:59) (Originally aired March 17, 2008)
A found joint and a garage full of broken dreams lead Christine on a quest for marijuana with a former date whose name she can't remember (Dave Foley, Louis-Dreyfus' insectile love interest in A Bug's Life).

9. The Happy Couple (21:38) (Originally aired March 24, 2008)
After learning about Matthew and Barb's garage sex, Christine forbids them from couplehood.

10. One and a Half Men (21:58) (Originally aired March 31, 2008)
Fearing she's perimenopausal, Christine takes a testosterone cream that gives her machismo. Playing her gynecologist, Jason Alexander provides a "Seinfeld" mini-reunion.

Reclaiming the couch Christine no longer wants Richard and New Christine to have allows Julia Louis-Dreyfus to show off her physical comedy skills.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though Warner's made to order DVDs carry warnings on their shop that they "have not been remastered or restored", most viewers won't be able to distinguish "Old Christine" from a contemporary given a standard release.
Picture quality is great on these 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers. The element is perfectly clean and playback is almost flawless. The video does look a little soft, but that seems to be the result of the series' unusually soft lighting (presumably a design choice on an over-40 actress vehicle). With under two hours of video per single-layered disc, the set is not overly compressed.

While the case states the audio is Dolby Surround, it is in fact basic two-channel stereo. That's not a huge issue; the soundtrack feels slightly thin compared to today's other TV DVDs, but it is certainly good enough. The biggest woe may be that the scattered score (by cooperative Matter) is a little louder than it ought to be. And there are no subtitles or closed captioning, an unfortunate fact you needn't be hearing impaired to mind.

The DVD uses Julia Louis-Dreyfus' comic recreation of Marilyn Monroe's blowing white dress pose as the cover, disc, and stagnant main menu art.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

At least here, Warner Manufactured On Demand gives "barebones" new meaning. Each disc has a single menu, supplying individual episode access and a "Play All" option. And that's it. There are no extras, no subtitles or foreign dubs, no trailers for other properties. I guess it's not too different from what Paramount does for most of its catalog sitcoms, which technically "Old Christine" now qualifies as.

You do notice some little standard touches that are missing (at least I did). Chapter stops are not timed to commercial breaks, instead hastily being dropped in every 10 minutes. The time coding is incomplete, disabling you to see how much of a chapter or disc remains to be seen. More minor than that, the jacket art and disc title that my Sony player provides for most DVDs are unsurprisingly absent.

The two discs are held in a clear keepcase, whose inside is starkly barren. Look closely and you'll notice that the print quality of the disc labels and case artwork is more like a very good bootleg than genuine studio product. This will no doubt cause great distress to those planning to study the cover and disc imagery of Louis-Dreyfus recreating Marilyn Monroe's famous dress-blowing pose with Spanx underneath.

Worrisome Old Christine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) wakes up from a troublingly incestuous dream within a dream. While Richard (Clark Gregg) and Christine are on friendly terms, they're not above cracking a joke at each other's expense.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The shortcomings of Warner's made to order DVD-Rs are disappointing, but not enough to discourage someone wanting to expand their "New Adventures of Old Christine" collection.
This extremely basic set would be easier to recommend with the touches long expected of current TV DVDs: bonus features, subtitles, appropriate chapter stops, nice packaging. At the same time, I can definitely understand being a big enough fan of something to prefer the cost-effective option over no DVD at all. The pricing may be a tad higher than it would be in stores, but it's not unreasonable for a nearly 4-hour set and picture and sound are of satisfactory quality.

The no-frills DVD release would also be easier to get excited about if it was of a better show. By its third season at least, "Old Christine" is a diverting but mediocre sitcom that I have trouble believing people would enjoy enough to regularly revisit. If you disagree, you may as well do so with a purchase because that's the only meaningful way to ensure the final two seasons get released.

Buy The New Adventures of Old Christine: Season 3 DVD exclusively from WBShop.com

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Reviewed July 29, 2010.



Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2008 Warner Bros. Television and Kari's Logo Here, 2010 Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.