IN TWEET: ANNA FARIS AND ALLISON JANNEY SHINE IN THE BAWDY SIT-COM “MOM”
Typically, I don’t cover CBS programming in large part because network president Les Moonves is not what I would call a friend of digital content distribution. He’s also an arrogant gas bag who never met a cookie-cutter procedural he didn’t get hard for. Unlike ABC, NBC, Fox and The CW, CBS makes it difficult to watch their shows anywhere outside of the traditional broadcast model. My response: why give free publicity to a network that doesn’t play nice with viewers?
With that said, I watched the new Chuck Lorre series MOM, laughed my ass off and decided to give CBS a little love. Of the half-dozen or so new fall comedies I’ve screened, it’s the only one that feels like a fully developed show. It’s definitely adult and uptight media watch dog groups will hate everything about it. No matter, MOM is undeniably hilarious and handles some very sensitive subject matter with deft skill.
Anna Faris plays Christy, a hard working single mom who waits tables at an upscale restaurant. She had her two kids very young and is also grappling with the reality that she’s an alcoholic. When we first meet her, Christy is just shy of four months sober (118 days, to be precise).
In short order, we are introduced to Christy’s married boss Gabriel (Nathan Corddry), fussy restaurant chef Rudy (nicely played by French Stewart in a pointed “homage” to Food Network staple Ted Allen), her semi-trampy and full-on resentful teen daughter Violet (Sadie Calvano) and adorable younger son Roscoe (Blake Garret Rosenthal).
Violet is already sexually active with her doofus boyfriend Luke (a strong, well modulated turn by Spencer Daniels) and Christy is having an affair with Gabriel. Oh, did I forget to mention that his wife’s father owns the restaurant?
As if all of that family drama wasn’t enough for Christy to deal with, it’s in her AA meeting that we first meet Bonnie (Allison Janney), Christy’s mother and fellow recovering addict. It’s also readily apparent that mom was into a lot more than wine and liquor:
BONNIE: (To a waiter) Can I trouble you for some water without ice. Ice isn’t good for my digestive system.
CHRISTY: Really? Ice? I think your digestive system has seen worse than ice.
BONNIE: Excuse me?
CHRISTY: Mom, I’ve watched you lick cocaine crumbs out of a shag carpet.
BONNIE: It’s not a sin to be thrifty, dear.
The script pulls no punches when it comes to drugs, sexuality and the rather loose morals of just about everyone in sight. Still, in the hands of Faris and Janney, the laughs come fast and furious and things never move into that skeezey, mean-spirited territory occupied full-time by TWO AND A HALF MEN (another Chuck Lorre series). This is a show where the writers like the characters, warts and all.
Janney plays Bonnie with admirable restraint, a wise choice given how horrible of a mother she was. Resisting the temptation to take the character over the top makes Bonnie likable enough that you don’t root for her to fall off the wagon and drop dead. She’s still blissfully ignorant of the damage she’s done but in her own bizarre way Bonnie is trying to cobble together a relationship with Christy. As always, Janney is spot on.
I’ve always liked Faris but this is definitely her most grounded and earnest performance. She has comedy chops to spare but it’s her sweet exasperation and genuine heart that make the show so enjoyable. Even if you can’t relate to her addiction or family situation, most Americans can identify with her financial struggles. MOM does an admirable job of not avoiding economic realities, something most other sit-coms don’t touch (yes, MODERN FAMILY, I’m talking to you).
MOM really shouldn’t be this funny or, dare I say, sweet but somehow it is. The lion's share of the credit must go to Faris, Janney and that part of Chuck Lorre’s brain that gave us a great show like BIG BANG THEORY. MOM is well worth your time.
MOM airs Mondays at 9:30PM E/P on CBS.
RONTHINK GRADE: B+