EmptyAirs: Monday Oct. 13, 9:30-10 p.m. (ABC)
It takes Christina Applegate approximately 45 seconds in the second season premiere of ABC's "Samantha Who?" to dispel any lingering discomfort the audience might have with the star's summertime diagnosis of breast cancer and subsequent double mastectomy. We see her Samantha character dancing in her apartment and doing a quick strip down to her bra and panties, all to a rock music beat.
It's a smart move from the show's producers and a courageous one for the star, who also appears in several scenes wearing a skin-tight leotard while learning dance steps from her mother Regina (the Emmy-winning Jean Smart). The gag is that Samantha once was a superb dancer but lost her ability to the coma-induced amnesia that is the show's running conceit. This too is something of a hoot, given Applegate's real-life talent as a Broadway-tested hoofer.
The episode's A-story surrounds Sam's mom and dad entering a dance competition and having to take on Regina's arch nemesis Paula Drake (a nifty cameo from Cybill Shepherd). But the subtext is how mom's training of her daughter to regain her dance ability continues the process of bringing them closer together, and it plays out charmingly.
"Samantha" was more or less the only freshman comedy hit of the strike-truncated 2007-08 season, and it's easy to see why. The sitcom has a breezy style that plays perfectly to Applegate's strengths. However, this season there will be an unstated element hovering over the show, that being the star's triumphant recovery from a frightful health trauma. But you'd be hard pressed to notice any difference in Week 1. The eyes still sparkle. The spirit remains effervescent. The lady clearly is unsinkable -- and fearless.