What Applegate brings to this spectrum is a portrait of a hapless do-gooder, a reborn angel running away from her devil beginnings and inevitably straight into a wall. And while Applegate's abilities are enough to anchor any ol' 30 minutes you could throw at her, the bonus is that funny women fairly dominate the cast of Samantha Who? The formidable Jean Smart plays her mother, a tart mixture of selfishness (she's shooting a poor-us audition video for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in the hospital room when Samantha awakes) and genuine affection for a daughter she hopes will forget their combative history.
It's Smart who hilariously first clues us in to Samantha's less-than-charming near past. When her daughter innocently says to her, "You made me who I am," Smart tearily counters with, "That is a terrible thing to say!"
An ebullient Jennifer Esposito, meanwhile, scores wicked laughs as the best friend who thinks she can still coax out the vice-loving queen of mean she knew and loved. And Melissa McCarthy takes a standard oddball role -- as a once-rejected childhood friend of Sam's trying to insinuate herself into her life again -- and finds amusing new contours of sweet/sad awkwardness.
Beyond its title, I have no quibble with this well-made, sly, heartwarming and at times giddily funny show. Let amnesia doctors shake their heads again at Hollywood's use of brain injury as a medically unsound, happily convenient on/off switch, because in Applegate, connoisseurs of great comic acting will find much to remember.
Review excerpt by Robert Abele, LA Weekly