Allison Janney adds a touch of greatness to anything she’s in – Masters of Sex, The West Wing, the Mandy Moore classic How to Deal. So it’s no surprise that Janney shines in CBS sitcom Mom, created by Chuck Lorre, Eddie Gorodetsky, and Gemma Baker.
Janney’s Bonnie plays mom to Christy (Anna Faris), who plays mom to pregnant teen Violet and adorable 9-year-old Roscoe. Much of the show hinges on Bonnie and Christy’s tumultuous relationship, but the two get along rather nicely in last night’s season finale – probably because they have bigger problems to worry about, i.e. Alvin’s heart attack and Violet’s water breaking.
In the finale, Bonnie kisses a bedridden Alvin post-heart attack (right after trying to kill him – classic Bonnie!) and Baxter turns to son Roscoe for a therapy session about how he doesn’t know what he’s doing with his life. But the real star is Violet, who, in the middle of giving birth, begins waffling between whether or not to keep the baby. She ends up deciding to put her new daughter up for adoption to the eager parents in the waiting room – but first, she has an emotional moment with the baby that involves a lot of crying. On both her part and ours.
The episode ends with Christy standing before her AA peers, announcing she’s one year sober. Go Christy!
Mom was renewed for a second season, so this isn’t the last time we’ll see the moms all together. But before we say goodbye to Janney and Faris for a few months, let’s take a look at both how season 1 excelled and what could use some work. And yes, Justin Long will be addressed.
High: Addiction premise
Addiction routinely gets covered in everything from already-dark dramas (Breaking Bad) to teen mysteries (Pretty Little Liars), but rarely – if ever – serves as a sitcom’s main premise. But right from the outset, Mom establishes that its main character is a recovering alcoholic – and her mom also has had her struggles with drugs, alcohol, and who knows what else. Juggling between jokes and taking these issues seriously can be tricky, but Mom manages to make light of Christy and Bonnie’s addictions – “Now I want a heart attack,” Bonnie says while surveying Alvin’s morphine IV – while also weaving in the heavier effects of drugs, from Bonnie’s horrific hangover post-relapse to Violet’s resentment toward Christy for her alcoholic past.
Low: Alvin, Christy’s dad
The issue of Christy’s missing dad had to come up sometime – or did it? During a tell-all session between Bonnie and Christy, Bonnie reveals she knows who Christy’s dad is, which naturally sends Christy in search of her long lost pa. Christy and Bonnie’s relationship is already complicated, and there’s more than enough material there to carry an entire series. Adding a dad to the mix just adds more stuff to an already overstuffed show. Christy doesn’t need another person to clutter her life – and she especially doesn’t need another person to harbor resentment toward. And Bonnie’s sudden realization that she’s still in love with Alvin? Not convincing.
High: Christy and Bonnie’s chemistry
This show could just be Christy and Bonnie in a padded room for 22 minutes (episode idea!), and it’d still be more amusing than most sitcoms. The two actresses bounce off one another wonderfully, with Faris nailing the optimistic-but-frustrated daughter and Janney really committing to the crazy-but-regretful mother. Just watch:
Low: The restaurant
The restaurant where Christy works only has two redeeming factors: French Stewart as a saucy chef and Nate Corddry as Christy’s married manager, whom she sleeps with occasionally. Both Stewart and Corddry are actors who know how to turn on the charm and deliver a one-liner, but the restaurant just doesn’t do anything for the show as a whole. Instead, it just separates Christy from Bonnie, even though their relationship is where all the comedy (and sentimental) gold is. If Christy’s “relationship” with Gabriel was more thought-out, and if the chef had more to do than sling witty tidbits, the restaurant could work as a setting for the show. But as it stands, Christy has no real connection to it, and putting her there distracts from the heart of the show.
High (literally…): Matt L. Jones as Baxter
Matt L. Jones has played the part of irresponsible stoner before as Breaking Bad’s Badger and will probably play the part of irresponsible stoner again after Mom – but that’s okay. Playing Roscoe’s sorta-deadbeat dad, Jones gives his character a doofy appeal. He knows he’s not the greatest – hell, he reacts with surprise when Christy tells him he’s a good dad after she encounters a really deadbeat dad – and he even looks to his 9-year-old son for advice when he’s having a crisis because he’s just that lost. Christy is capable enough that she doesn’t actually need to rely on Baxter for much, so we don’t have any reason to be mad at him. And he does try – keyword, try – to help out, like when he attempted (and failed) to fix a leaky roof. “A” for effort, Baxter.
Low: Christy’s relationship with Justin Long
Bring Justin Long in, then rip him away. Repeat. This is what Mom did to us when Long was introduced as a potential love interest for Christy, then put aside for two episodes, then brought back, inexplicably, to go a date with Christy. Then, once again, Christy pushed him away because, again, Christy had to get her life together. We get it: Christy wants to go slow and make sure she’s in a good place before beginning a relationship. That’s honorable. But it comes off as lazy writing when she makes the move twice in a row. Basically, quit playin’ games with our hearts, Mom.
What were your own highs and lows for the first season of Mom – and what do you hope to see more (or less) of come season 2?