Chris Pratt might be a big-time movie star, one capable of bringing cloned dinosaur franchises and third-tier comic book heroes to the top of the box-office heap, but he was once just a regular guy like everyone else. Okay not like everyone else, he also starred in the critically lauded sitcom Parks & Recreation. Sure, Pratt’s resume consists of much more than the charming comedy set amongst the “moderately well educated” residents of Pawnee, Indiana, but appearances in movies like Moneyball, Wanted, and The Five-Year Engagement are a far cry from the loveable lummox Andy Dwyer.
It hasn’t been that long since Pratt was polishing shoes and performing with Mouse Rat over on NBC, but in that relatively short amount of time his profile has changed considerably (and in more ways than one). That’s why the idea of him making an appearance on Anna Faris’ CBS series Mom isn’t just adorable because the two are a real-life couple, or significant for the fact he’s a sitcom star jumping ship from the peacock network to appear on one of Chuck Lorre’s many shows. Passengers aside, the guy is kind of a big deal. And to its credit, Mom handled his guest appearance in the best way possible: by never losing focus that it’s Anna Faris and Allison Janney’s show.
Mom is well into its fourth season now and its two leads have a charming, well-honed rapport with one another. The series’ exploration of sobriety and the difficulties inherent in being a recovering addict makes it one of the more surprisingly interesting and sharp sitcoms in the Lorre catalog. It’s rare for a sitcom to have stakes, but Mom does, proving as much last year by killing off one of its supporting characters in move that took nearly everyone by surprise.
Thankfully, there are no such somber touches in ‘Good Karma and the Big Weird’, which plays Pratt’s appearance as a straightforward romance between his character Nick and Faris’ Christy, who, as she mentions several times during the episode hasn’t been intimate with anyone for 19 months. The show makes an effort to see Pratt through the eyes of its female cast, presenting him not just as a potential love interest for Christy, but as a bit of eye candy for everyone. Since transitioning to big-budget blockbusters, Pratt’s undergone a considerable physical change, and while Mom doesn’t necessarily bring that transformation to light, it doesn’t shy away from pointing out – without necessarily spelling out – that he possess certain qualities that would held in high regard by those open to dating him.
And while Mom doesn’t play coy with Christy’s intentions with Nick – nor does it shy away from following through on them – it also doesn’t go for the easy joke with regard to either Pratt and Faris’ real-life relationship or his recent high-profile gigs. Nick’s character is a horse-riding instructor who takes Christy out on a semi-romantic ride with his trusty (remedial) steed Starburst. It’s not hard to imagine the series making the leap from Starburst to Star-Lord, and yet mercifully, the series didn’t cross that line. In fact, Mom didn’t try for any meta-joke at all; instead it just let the two actors’ natural chemistry with one another (and, yes, the audience’s tacit awareness of that fact) do most of the heavy lifting.
Pratt revealing the too-good-to-be-true Nick really is too good to be true does the rest of the heavy lifting. “He’s not dangerous he just… feels things very deeply.” That’s the explanation Nick’s aunt Marjorie (Mini Kennedy) gives after he becomes overwhelmingly attached to Christy after just (technically) one date. As it turns out, the dreamboat’s been docked at a “facility” for most of his adult life and now he’s out and woefully unsupervised. It’s a rather flippant and vague way to approach mental illness, and sort of surprising for a show that has demonstrated an ability to nimbly tackle similarly heavy subject matter in the past. In a way, it’s reminiscent of the Friends episode where Fun Bobby finds out he’s an alcoholic and the whole thing’s played off as a joke because Monica doesn’t have the greatest luck when it comes to boyfriends.
Still, the jokes at Nick’s expense are kept to a minimum, and in fact it seems more than a few are bounced back at Christy for her inability to break things off with an otherwise perfect specimen who just happens to “feel things very deeply” and draw pictures of her as an undergarment-wearing horse-woman. After a few awkward encounters between the two – topped off by Pratt serenading Faris outside her bedroom window, but regrettably not using his signature Mouse Rat voice – Christy attempts to break it off, only to jump back into his arms as the episode fades to black.
In its own charming way, ‘Good Karma and the Big Weird’ played it cool in front of the guest star, and Pratt certainly held his own in front of a live audience – though he’s had practice with that on SNL. It’s difficult to know exactly what the series is doing with the open-ended conclusion, but you can’t blame CBS for making it narratively possible for Pratt to one-day return. For the time being, the network is saying he’s only scheduled for one episode (after all, there are dinosaurs to catch and infinity gems to be found), but it’s clear there’s an open invitation to Mr. Anna Faris should he want it. If this episode proved anything, he’d make for a welcome repeat guest star.
Mom returns with ‘Wind Chimes and a Bottomless Pit of Sadness’ on Thursday, February 2, 2017 on CBS.