“The Passion of Christine”: The Hole of Intimacy

Traditional sitcoms have a built in “seen that” quality to them that often acts as a black hole for ideas, originality and performances. Thankfully, some sitcoms break, or at least stretch, the mold (Arrested Development, Scrubs, The Office, even It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) while others do the best they can within genre expectations (The Big Bang Theory). The New Adventures of Old Christine falls into the latter category.

The not-nearly-as-old-as-we’re-led-to-believe Julia Louis-Dreyfuss portrays an older (all of 45!) mom suddenly single again and navigating the changed landscape of the singles scene. Rounding out the ensemble of tropes, I mean, stock characters are her ex-husband, Richard (Clark Gregg); the “new” (READ: younger) Christine (Emily Rutherfurd); 8-year-old son, Ritchie (Trevor Gagnon); and her live-in brother (Hamish Linklater). The show is a love letter to an undervalued demographic: fortysomething women (read: the Desperate Housewives demo).

“I wish I could take credit, but God did that.” –Marley (Tricia O’Kelley)

The adventure that Christine is most often on is the one to fill the hole of intimacy inside her, to quell the stabbings of loneliness. True intimacy is often elusive. Let’s face it, we have this need, this void, for intimacy that our culture has taught us to fill with all sorts of things that fall short of truly filling it. Money. Marriage. Sex. Parenthood. Success. Food. (Don’t tell me you haven’t tried to fill the pain of a break up with a cheeseburger or some ice cream. Or both.) All because the desire to know and be known is a universal desire, one hard-wired into us.

We are hard-wired for intimacy; we’re relational beings. Augustine spoke of a God-sized hole within each of us – essentially it is that built-in need for intimacy. Just as there was an intra-Trinitarian intimacy within the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) before creation, so–as His image bearers–do we share this need for intimacy. The pursuit of intimacy is similar to our pursuit of God. We seek that communion, that connection with him as well as with others. God created us with a yearning for relationships from the beginning (Genesis 2:18), from the moment He said “‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’”

Julia Louis-Dreyfuss carries Christine’s litany of foibles like proud armor, on the one hand a dervish of physical comedy on the other, a “more urbane than thou” devilish wit. Tormented by gossiping moms, her own self-image, and, well, the “new” Christine, The New Adventures of Old Christine mines its share of laughs. However, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss is so much better than the scripts, she alone makes the show better than it ought to be. Brief stints by Wanda Sykes (Evan Almighty) and Blair Underwood, the instant fixer uppers of shows, demonstrate a willingness to get behind the show and lighten her comedic load. This is good because there are a lot of “Christines” out there.

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