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Fall 2013 Review: Mom

21 Oct

Two Moms

Mom stars Anna Faris as Christy, a mom of two kids, a teenage daughter and a younger son, from two different fathers. Christy is a recovering alcoholic, who entered AA fairly recently and is desperately trying to put her life together and be a better mother to her kids than her mom was to her.  She works as a waitress at a fancy French restaurant run by a pretentious jerk of a chef named Rudy, played by French Stewart (French restaurant, French Stewart – makes sense, right). Her boss is Gabriel (Nate Corddry, who served briefly as a Daily Show correspondent at the same time as his older brother Rob), who she’s dating. Unfortunately, he’s also married to the daughter of the restaurant’s owner. At home, her teenage daughter Violet is sleeping with her idiot boyfriend Luke, while her son’s stoner dad Baxter (Matt Jones, Breaking Bad’s Badger) hangs around obnoxiously trying to spend time with her son, Roscoe. Into these already messy times, comes her mom, Bonnie, played by Allison Janney, a recovering alcoholic herself. , Bonnie taught Christy all of her bad habits, and Christy blames for her many of her problems. After being prodded by her daughter on charges of hypocrisy, Christy reluctantly tries to renew her relationship with her mother. Frustratingly, it seems like Bonnie’s prickly personality hasn’t changed a bit even though she’s kicked the booze and the drugs.

Anna Faris has long been a talented comedic actress who simply couldn’t find the right role. She starred in several movies, most of which were mediocre at best, and a television show has long seemed in the offing as a natural use of her talents. Amy Poehler is the go-to example of an actress who found her home as a TV lead, but there are others. Unfortunately, this show isn’t Faris’ Parks and Recreation and does not take full advantage of Faris’ abilities..

When I talked about the failings of The Michael J. Fox Show, I talked about how it has all the elements required to put together a solid sitcom outside from good jokes.  Mom is about two elements behind The Michael J. Fox Show on the road to sitcom glory.  It’s significantly better than the worst shows of the season, The Millers, and Dads, but it’s still significantly behind being worth watching.  Faris and Janney are talented and the show is well meaning.  The premise is a solid one as well, and there’s a lot of potential humor, pathos and characterization that could be built out of that set up, and with those actresses particularly at the heart of it.

Unfortunately it’s both not funny and not built in a style which allows it to be funny. It’s way too hammy. It has a laugh track, which you may know if you’ve ready any of my reviews, is basically a non-starter. This laugh track is particularly insufferable, as is the low moment of the episode, when CBS star Jon Cryer shows up as a diner at Christy’s restaurant, and the laughs turn to loud cheers, just to make sure you know that a fellow CBS sitcom actor should be celebrated.  This is the 21st century; I expect better.  Television is now being taken more seriously as an art form as ever before, and part of the reason why is because it’s shed things like laugh tracks and hackneyed humor with long pauses that give the audience time to catch up. All these pieces reek of the days TV was considered obviously inferior to film.

If you strip away both the jokes and the style, there’s a potentially good sitcom here. But it’s buried deep underneath the canned jokes and canned laughter, far too deep to see the light of day.

Will I watch it again? No. That a Chuck Lorre sitcom isn’t awful is a fair backhanded compliment; Mom is not awful. It’s not good enough to watch though. Try harder.