Christina Applegate is polite. Like, embarrassingly polite. Church-on-Sunday polite. To everyone. After a photo shoot, she hugs the stylist's assistant—a girl she's just met—smells her hair, asks what shampoo she uses, and vows to buy it for herself. Today. "Good-bye, Uncle Colin!" she shouts to another. "I love you, Jenny Jo!" And as we sit down for a cup of hot tea—she is often freezing—Applegate even flirts with the waiter.

There is venom beneath her courtesy, however, and it is reserved for one thing: bad American Idol contestants. She and her husband, actor Johnathon Schaech (That Thing You Do!), watch religiously. "We stay home drinking Bellinis and eating caviar," she says. (Which is apparently the Hollywood equivalent of a night in with General Tso.) She proceeds to give the play-by-play on last Wednesday's Idol showdown, lifting pages from Joan Rivers' book to trash song choices and fashion emergencies. (For the record, her money is on Fantasia.) She and Schaech also watch MTV's Newlyweds—"My husband thinks I'm like Jessica, but I don't really see it"—though they skip Carmen & Dave. "It's not as much fun when you're friends with them," she says.

Applegate, 32, is entitled to spend as much time on the couch as she wants. She's just finished shooting five movies back-to-back—notably this summer's Anchorman with Will Ferrell, a His Girl Friday for people who've never heard of Cary Grant; and the dark Yuletide comedy Surviving Christmas with Ben Affleck. And on the afternoon we meet, APPLEGATE is splashed across the pages of Variety. It's nothing scandalous, unless you're Marisa Tomei, Jenna Elfman, or Jane Krakowski—among the actresses she beat out for the lead in next year's revival of Sweet Charity on Broadway. She was offered the part before the New Year and, petrified, sat on it for seven weeks. Her husband encouraged her, helpfully reminding her that she has "big balls."