September 23, 2013



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MOM:  Monday 9:30PM on CBS starting Sept. 23 – Worth A Look

The Chuck Lorre sitcom machine is a major reason that CBS is the most successful of the Big Four networks.  The Big Bang Theory is the biggest scripted hit on broadcast television, and while 2 1/2 Men has seen its best days and Mike & Molly never quite reached the heights of the other two (even as Melissa McCarthy becomes a bigger and bigger movie star, oddly enough), both shows are substantial successes that any other network would be delighted to have.  Lorre provides the comedy part of CBS’s meat and potatoes fare, multi-camera sitcoms that feature rude but likable protagonists and don’t have any interest in edginess or subtlety.

Lorre’s new sitcom MOM, which he created with Eddie Gorodetsky and Gemma Baker, both colleagues from his other shows, fits neatly into his model.  (There’s even a pilot cameo from a familiar Lorre universe face to more or less bless the proceedings.)  Heroine Christy (Anna Faris) is 4 months sober and a single mom, trying to make a life for herself with teen daughter Violet (Sadie Calvano) and young son Roscoe (Blake Garrett Rosenthal), but it ain’t easy.  Getting sober has made her realize just how much she’s screwed up her life; she never graduated high school, and currently she’s a waitress at a haute cuisine restaurant with an imperious chef (French Stewart) and a married manager, Gabriel (Nathan Corddry) with whom she’s having an affair.  Christy is trying to reform, but meanwhile Violet is sleeping with her mostly-shirtless boyfriend Luke (Spencer Daniels), and Roscoe’s ex-drug dealer loser dad Baxter (Matt Jones) is around much more than someone should who’s months behind on child support.  Worse yet, Christy’s tart-tongued mother Bonnie (Allison Janney) is back in her life, theoretically sober herself (if Xanax doesn’t count) after a lifetime of many drugs and more men, and not particularly interested in amends.

There are a lot of stock characters and situations in that mix (I could easily have done without Luke and Baxter, who come straight from the hacky sitcom playbook, as well as the end-of-pilot cliffhanger), but you have to admire the craft that went into the Mom pilot.  The script (and direction by Pam Fryman) efficiently sets up everything you need to know about Christy, her life and the people around her, garner a few laughs, and never feel like they’re rushing or forcing scenes where they don’t belong.  You may love Mom or not at the end of its first half-hour, but you won’t be in any doubt about what the series is going to be.

What Mom has that previous Lorre shows didn’t is Anna Faris.  For years now, she’s perpetually been on the list of “why isn’t this woman a star?” performers, somehow never managing to propel her early Scary Movie hits into big-screen stardom beyond the brief success of The House Bunny, but always reliably spunky, funny and relatable, even in dreck like What’s Your Number? and Yogi Bear.  Mom, while not the freshest of material, gives her the chance to be all of that at center stage, and she’s enormously appealing even when the jokes are tired and overdone, like the opening five minutes of her having a near-breakdown because someone called her a “good waitress.”.  Janney is of course a superb comic actress (her episode of Veep this season may have been its most laugh-out-loud yet), and she matches well with Faris, although it remains to be seen if her irresponsible grandma will be more than a running gag.  Clearly that’s all Stewart’s chef will be, but he knows how to pry every giggle from his one-liners, while Corddry is more of a straight man in this ensemble.  Calvano capably supplies the Rude Teen jokes.

Mom could hardly be more perfectly suited to a pairing with 2 Broke Girls, being a slightly less raunchy, more (albeit skewed) family-values version of the same general tale about feisty waitresses looking to improve their lives.  The series should do at least as well as Mike & Molly in that slot, and very possibly hold Broke Girls‘ rating even more effectively.  CBS would like Mom to score strongly enough so that in a year, it will be able to fend for itself in one of the openings created by the exit of How I Met Your Mother and (potentially) 2 1/2 Men, and that’s not at all an unrealistic plan.  You know what they say:  the rich get richer, and CBS gets another hit sitcom.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."