For non-Chuck Lorre fans, Mom can be hard to take: an insanely over-the-top laugh track that finds everything just a bit too funny; punch lines so telegraphed aliens tracking this planet from outer space could predict them; a weak supporting cast, especially at that damn restaurant; and slapstick physical humor sometimes more painful than humorous (this week: Bonnie and Christy wrestle over digging a phone out of a couch).
But Mom’s primary hurdle is in its premise, as it tries to wring a situation comedy out of such a difficult situation: three generations of teen mothers, with two out of the three recovering addicts. Fortunately, those two are played by Anna Faris and Allison Janney, who have such excellent chemistry as a mother/daughter tentatively working on rebuilding their relationship. Last week saw the pair reach a new understanding with Christy railing at her mother, explaining why she feels like she has to be in control all the time because she basically raised herself, and Bonnie responded by taking care of her daughter for once. This week, their connection continues to grow closer and actually takes a giant step forward.
The effort of these two to rebuild their trust in each other becomes difficult when they find out they’re still being lied to. A series of betrayals (Christy didn’t let Bonnie know her couch folds out; Bonnie isn’t as broke as she’s claimed she is), leads them to reveal other stories that they’ve been keeping from each other. Mostly this just highlights the painful pasts both have: This family’s prom stories involve a kilo of hash and people having to dig their own graves. But Bonnie comes up with a life-altering reveal for Christy: She knows who Christy’s father is, and it’s the only man she’s ever loved.
Caroline Siede pointed out last week that Mom’s emotional strengths may be effective, but they just aren’t that funny. This is true to the nth degree this week as Bonnie tells the story of Christy’s birth. Bonnie loves the story because it brought her a “beautiful baby girl,” but the tale ends with a teenage Bonnie holding a baby Christy in her arms on a bus stop bench on Christmas Eve. Bonnie is chuckling as she tells this story, even though it’s difficult to imagine anything sadder. It’s a credit to Allison Janney, who brings so much to this role, that the way she tells this story is so moving. Just watch her face as she explains how Christy’s teenage father deserted the two of them right after the birth, as she tries to find mirth in being left on that bench. She’s smiling, for her daughter, even as her own eyes well up. For a comedy, I didn’t laugh. But I nearly cried.
Of course Christy wants to meet her father right away, and Kevin Pollak seems like a decent, deadpan casting choice for Alvin, the dad in question. Thankfully, he’s neither a villain or a saint, just a middle-aged man somewhere in the middle, who now has his own family. Anna Faris does a nice job in the scene where Christy meets her father for the first time, and he’s perfect as the befuddled body-shop owner wondering why this young girl asks him so many questions and hugs him on her way out. The preview for next week indicates that he soon figures out why; only 14 episodes into the series, it seems like a game changer for Mom to focus on Dad already.
Even without Pollak’s future appearance, the episode accomplished what it needed to for the bond between Bonnie and Christy. On their way back home, Christy tries to explain why she didn’t tell her father who she was: “What’s the point? We turned out just fine without him.” Then mother and daughter both belly-laugh and sigh together at this ridiculous statement, another simultaneously funny and sad moment. Although they crack up over how screwed up they are, they’re screwed up and recovering, and they’re recovering together. So the laugh is followed by Bonnie saying, “I have never loved you more,” with Christy replying, “Back at ya.” It’s poignant, powerful stuff, with a lot more depth than many 22-minute shows would attempt. You can even point to small details that make up the pair’s relationship: Christy drives on her way to meet her father; Bonnie, still not the world’s most responsible person, tries to show her pictures of her dad on her phone while she’s driving. But on the way back, Christy, now emotionally exhausted, lets Bonnie take the wheel.
The barely tolerable B-story involved Luke trying and failing to exert some parental control over Roscoe, but the plot did have a valuable point at the end. Violet, seeing the generations that have preceded her, is determined to break her family’s tortured cycle by being a decent parent from the start. As her mother and grandmother try to repair what’s damaged, Violet hopes for a new beginning for her new family.
But none of these really sound like sitcom plots. My biggest laugh in the entire episode was at Allison Janney’s description of a guy on her phone as “you know, someone I keep company with.” She can apparently do anything, even make poetry out of a Chuck Lorre show, and Faris is her worthy counterpart. I appreciate the attempt; I just wish it made me laugh more.
- Bonnie explains why Christy doesn’t like “Don’t Fear The Reaper”: “It’s understandable. You were stuck in my pelvis the first time you heard it.”
- Violet: “I intend to raise our child with patience and understanding.” As a fellow mom, I say, ha ha, good luck with that.
- I even like the way Allison Janney sticks a bankroll into the back of her pants.
- Thankfully, no restaurant scenes this week.
- Thanks for letting me sit in while Todd is still at TCA. I have high hopes for this show.
- And the end of this sentence is my 1,000th word (I’m apparently not as prolific as my fellow Mom reviewers).