Multi-camera sitcom, 22 episodes aired
Created by Chuck Lorre, Eddie Gorodetsky & Gemma Baker
Starring Anna Faris & Allison Janney
Returns to CBS for a second season in the fall
Although it’s easy to think of comedies and dramas as separate entities, the best series are often able to execute both styles of storytelling in establishing their identities. Mom is one of those series, and to call it a sitcom is almost misleading. Few network dramas have been able to get me as emotionally invested in their characters within one season as Mom has done. Thoughtful takes on familiar plotlines are things the series does while making it look easy, but the initial draw of Mom has to be its two leads, Anna Faris and Allison Janney.
Viewers will probably already be familiar with at least one of the actresses, but both contribute in equal measures to the success of Mom. Faris plays Christy, who reluctantly accepts the help of Janney’s Bonnie, her historical train wreck of a mother, while Christy’s own teenage daughter is pregnant. The chemistry between Faris and Janney is mesmerizing, and to see the influence one character has had on the other even when an episode or scene isn’t specifically drawing attention to it is one of the many pleasures of watching. Their comedic timing and dramatic capability are utterly convincing, with Bonnie being the type to use comedy as a defense mechanism in serious situations and Christy yearning a bit more for something more genuine.
The first season is quick to notice when certain plots or ideas aren’t working as well as others and isn’t afraid to drop them almost completely. The episodes devoted to motherhood and family make up the bulk of the material, but Mom also handles Christy and Bonnie’s addiction recovery with tenderness and fun. One of the first-season highlights is seeing a fellow addict, played by Octavia Spencer, part ways with her friends in a sequence that encapsulates everything Mom is capable of doing right. None of the material comes off manipulative, and both central stories–motherhood and addiction–come together at a milestone mark in the season finale when Christy becomes a grandmother and reaches her first year of sobriety.
Something unusual that Mom does is eschew the use of B-stories, which are often the bread-and-butter of network sitcoms. There might be the occasional one here or there in the 22-episode first season, but the vast majority of those episodes tackle one central conflict, which is wonderfully original when you consider the other sitcoms it is competing with. Add to that a great supporting and guest cast (including Kevin Pollack, Justin Long and Nick Searcy), and there’s plenty to latch onto here.
Mom didn’t hit the same ratings peaks of fellow CBS freshmen shows, The Millers and The Crazy Ones, but it survived the cancellation onslaught and will enjoy a healthy The Big Bang Theory lead-in at the start of its second season. This couldn’t be more of a gift, since Mom is, without a doubt, the best of those new shows and quite possibly the best of its class altogether (Brooklyn Nine-Nine being its major competition there). The first season can binge-watched in a weekend, and even those who are allergic to Chuck Lorre series ought to check it out. It may not be the funniest sitcom on the networks, but Mom is something special and, at times, beautiful to take part in.
– Sean Colletti