First Watch: Mom – “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)

While Daniel and I were choosing which shows to review, Mom had been nearly forced upon me. Another three-camera sitcom with a laugh track [?] seemed beneath me. Did the networks need another dysfunctional family on their week night blocks? Not as far as I was concerned. Those kinds of sitcoms serve as nostalgic, sentimental reminders of the early days of broadcasting. How could they compete with thoughtful and poignant scripted comedies such as Newsroom or 30 Rock? Mom could only be trash; vaudeville playing down the street from Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. All of these thoughts steeped in the back of my mind while I began the pilot, until one name appeared in the lower third: Chuck Lorre. “Oh, well,” I said aloud (to myself, something I occasionally do), “I might have a laugh.”

The maiden episode begins with our heroin — who is a mother, a daughter, and a waitress — crying at a table … that she’s serving. She continues her job: takes orders, refills drink, and serves food all whilst sobbing and sniffling. One of the patrons flags her down and, surprise, it’s a Jon Cryer cameo — this is most definitely a Chuck Lorre show. While we know Mom can throw around some major cameo-star power, most of these actors our bound to be unkno—HOLY SQUINTED EYES! IT’S FRENCH STEWART! Alright, French Stewart isn’t exactly “star power”, but he’s a sitcom veteran; he plays the sarcastic, Gordon-Ramsey-like chef — if Gordon Ramsey was more cynical and could be pushed around by his waitresses.

Anyway, Christy (Anna Faris) — as we’ll call the main character from now on — seems to be upset about her life. She complains about being a server for this many years, specifically. After her mini-breakdown, she heads home, to the rest of her life. Violet (Sadie Calvano), Christy’s sixteen-year-old daughter, has some company sneaking out of her bedroom window. This leads to a very concerned Christy explaining to her daughter how sleeping with a boy, and having a child, can ruin her life — Christy uses her own life for example. The tone for the show is set: a brutally honest portrayal of a single mom raising kids in this generation, while reaping a joke from every other line (not unlike Two and Half Men). The only separating Mom from a true Chuck Lorre production is some subtle, yet funny, physical comedy. We also get to meet her adorable (eight-to-eleven-year-old) son, Roscoe (Blake Garrett Rosenthal).

For some reason, Christy’s boss, Gabriel (Nate Corddry), shows up to her home. I suppose he was concerned for her after her ‘episode’ at work. What a good boss. Too bad he’s married, or else Christy would be all over that — oh, she is all over that. Christy is in love with, and currently kissing, a married man (and her boss). When Roscoe calls ‘Mom!’, Christy reacts by shoving Gabriel out through the door and into some shrubbery. Now we can call this a true Chuck Lorre production.

The next day we discover Christy attends Alcoholics Anonymous regularly. She stands up to introduce herself to the room, then goes into her realization: the only reason she is the mother she is today is because she’s trying so hard to not become her own mother. In a true ‘speak of the devil’ moment, her mother, Bonnie (Allison Janney) is in the audience with a criticism prepared: “Aren’t you a little old to be blaming all of your problems on your mother?” Christy is right to fear becoming her mother because, like her mother, Christy made some horrible mistakes in her youth. Also like her mother, Christy is now sober and attempting to mother. Unfortunately, this means that Bonnie will be around for awhile, trying to correct her own mother-failures with Christy. This means many criticisms and no reparations.

Mom made me laugh; I can’t deny that. With an episode loaded with as many jokes as that, it was simply a numbers game: I couldn’t stop myself from laughing at all of them. On top of that, some of the actors have enough timing to make any line a little comedic. The subject matter, on the other hand, is rather dramatic. In fact, the only thing separating this series from becoming a drama is a laugh track. That’s not a bad thing, though, as creating a successful drama requires complex and deep characters. Unfortunately, Baxter (Matt Jones) — Roscoe’s father — seems to be nothing more than a comic character: a cliche designed purely to entertain. Ultimately, if you enjoy Chuck Lorre, you should enjoy Mom.

Mom is currently on at CBS on Monday nights.

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