Once upon a time, the TV landscape was dominated by strong, funny, working-class women on shows like Roseanne and Grace Under Fire, and then all of a sudden, those shows went away and very few replacements followed in their path. Could the Anna Faris-starring Mom make inroads toward honoring the ideals of those aforementioned shows? Perhaps, but it's not there yet.
Created by Gemma Baker, Eddie Gorodetsky, and the King Midas of CBS sitcoms, producer Chuck Lorre (who spent time working on both Roseanne and Grace Under Fire in the early '90s), Mom puts Faris into a character (Christy) that has seemingly just bounced off of rock-bottom. Christy is four months sober, a high school dropout, a former teen mom and current waitress who is sleeping with her married boss while trying to be a good mom; this doesn't sound like a launchpad for comedy, but Faris makes it work and makes us care.
This is a sitcom with a bit of heart and a lot of talent on the screen. Joining Faris is French Stewart (hilarious in small bites as an acid-tongued head chef named Rudy), Nathan Corddry (as Gabriel, Christy's boss), Breaking Bad alum Matt Jones (as Baxter, Christy's ex), and of course Allison Janney as Bonnie, Christy's mom.
The similarities that connect Bonnie, Christy, and Christy's teenage daughter Violet (Sadie Calvano) are a big part of this show. Christy is obsessed with righting her own personal ship so that she can stop acting like her mother - someone that she resents for both her hard-partying ways and the poor example that she set. It's clear that Christy also blames Bonnie for her own fractured relationship with Violet, who resents her for the same reasons that Christy resents her mom - but there is definitely some projecting going on here.
There's a great scene with Faris speaking up while at an AA meeting. She's discussing her horrible upbringing, blaming her mother, while injecting a bit of well-timed humor to swaddle the seriousness of the moment. When Christy's character sits down, though, she's lightly confronted by Bonnie, whom she has been estranged from for quite some time.
The two go out for a meal at a cafe after AA, but the situation implodes when Bonnie reveals that she has set herself right and that she has a better relationship with Christy's daughter Violet than Christy does. In that moment, jealousy takes over, but following that, Christy realizes that if she wants to mend fences with her daughter, she needs to set the right example and re-admit her mother into hers and her children's lives.
Faris and Janney play well off of each other. Faris is slightly high-strung and cynical as Christy, but Bonnie is more easy-going and not-at-all self aware that she is embarrassing her daughter; but then again, what mother is?
Mom is clearly dedicated to telling a coherent story with these characters, and with that, the show is already better off than a lot of other cookie-cutter sitcoms that just go for the obvious joke, without letting the audience in to see them earn that moment of levity.
This is the kind of show that you want to root for. It's relatable, but if there is any shortfall right now, it may be in the comedy department, because while the show is funny at times, most moments are merely smirk-worthy. On the plus side, though, one figures that better humor will come, since the minutiae of Christy's life is fertile ground for it to bloom. Until that happens, though, this show is nowhere near the path to following the likes of Roseanne.
Mom airs Mondays @9:30 PM on CBS.