Monday, September 23, 2013

REVIEW: Anna Faris & Allison Janney Shine in a Very Confusing and Overstuffed Pilot for 'Mom'

CBS' Mom - 1.01 Pilot

Christy, a waitress at a posh Napa Valley establishment who is four months clean and doing her best to be a good mom and overcome a history of questionable choices, is tested when her recovering alcoholic mom, Bonnie, reappears chock-full of passive-aggressive insights into Christy's many mistakes.

There are about 4 or 5 different shows in the pilot for CBS' new comedy series Mom. If the show were to develop into just one of those, it could be the best new comedy series this year or it could be one of the worst. Anna Faris and Allison Janney are excellent together. Faris has had moderate success in movies and seems well-poised to truly breakout on television. This show does not work without Faris as Christy. She brings a lovable and sympathetic quality to Christy as she struggles with many, many of life's issues. Janney is a four-time Emmy winner and her comedic timing is very strongly showcased here. The pilot truly doesn't kick into high gear until Janney joins in. Their scenes together are the highlight and their dynamic is the most interesting facet the pilot presents. And yet, their scenes are so few and far between.

Instead the pilot wants to fill this world to the brim with other characters and other stories and none them really work in an interesting, non-grating way. The dynamic between Bonnie, Christy and Violet has the potential to be intriguing as it shows three generations of women all making the same terrible choices while trying to become better people. But Sadie Calvano is pretty annoying as the teenage daughter. So, that dynamic mostly fizzles out once it tries to reach out to the flimsy parts of the show.

But nothing really compares to whatever the rest of the ensemble is doing on this show. French Stewart is just here as the restaurant's chef to hand out punch lines and serves no point to the larger focus. Spencer Daniels - Violet's boyfriend, Luke - is dull and lifeless and really drags down the few scenes he's asked to do something in. Those roles feel superfluous. Nate Corddry and Matt Jones feel that way as well but the show does get better use out of them.

So basically, this show needs refining and refocus. If the show were to evolve into the show set around Christy and Bonnie's relationship and the AA sequences, then it could be entertaining. If they were to basically drop that plot point and continue trying to balance five different shows, it would be potential wasted.

Some more thoughts:
  • So, Matt Jones is playing a character named Baxter after a long run playing a character named Badger on a very popular drama. Yeah, that won't be confusing at all.
  • Hey, there's Jon Cryer in the opening! How'd that cameo come to fruition I wonder? (Hint: Mom and Two and a Half Men have the same creator.)
  • And Mom is the latest show to employ the pregnant teenage daughter in a sitcom trope.