Ken Tucker
June 02, 2010 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Last night, The New Adventures of Old Christine should have been leading off CBS’ prime-time schedule. Instead, it was gone. Not even a rerun. Getting canceled will do that.

A few days ago, I lamented the cancellation of Better Off Ted. I liked Old Christine a lot, too. Completely different sorts of sitcoms, of course: Christine was more broad and slapsticky; in a strict sense, more conventional. But, boy, Julia-Louis Dreyfus was good, and Old Christine was an exceedingly clever show, with characters that grew in interesting ways.

Created by Kari Lizer, Old Christine took what could have been a terrible gimmick — the “old” Christine (Louis-Dreyfus) is replaced by her ex-husband (Clark Gregg) with a younger, “new” Christine (Emily Rutherfurd) — and the series proved once again that a TV premise is as good as the writing and performances make it.

The “old” Christine was self-centered, prone to panic, and she drank too much. She was no one’s idea of a good mother (poor little Ritchie), or a particularly good wife, although she and ex-hubby Richard always shared memories of good sex.

But Louis-Dreyfus’ portrayal of Christine Campbell made that woman not just lovable — there were times when you ached for Christine; her basic goodness combined with her loneliness and her hapless screwing-up to create a fully formed female hero, perfectly imperfect.

Christine was also terrific — terrifically blundering, that is — in all her various relationships, whether she was trading jokes and wine bottles with her pal Barbara (a flinty Wanda Sykes), crossing intimacy boundaries with her jittery therapist-brother (the wonderfully dolorous Hamish Linklater), sparring with Richard (Clark Gregg made him a marvelous creation: a horny dope), or finding ways to come to terms with the “new” Christine (Rutherfurd quickly found a way to transcend the dumb-blonde role her character could have remained).

And let’s not forget Christine’s epic battles with the “meanie moms,” Marly and Lindsay (Tricia O’Kelley and Alex Kapp Horner), who were also an excellent act all by themselves, a sort of Laurel and Hardy of the L.A. upper-middle-class. There were weeks when I could have watched a whole episode about Marly and Lindsay.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus won an Emmy for Old Christine in 2006, but CBS treated the show shabbily, putting it on hiatus and moving it around on its schedule.

It deserved a lot better, don’t you think?

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