“Clumsy Monkeys And A Tilted Uterus” succeeds primarily for one reason: It features Gary from Alphas as the husband of the couple that will be adopting Violet’s baby! Ryan Cartwright proved himself to be an effortlessly great actor when it came to both comedy and drama on that earlier program, and it’s great fun to see him turn up here as a video game designer who has been unable to conceive a child with his wife. (Yes, his wife. We’ll get to that in a second.) Cartwright has also appeared on The Big Bang Theory, and his character here feels almost like he’d fit in on that show better than the one he played when he was on the other program. Indeed, at one point, Violet says that he’s cool—“Big Bang cool.” I don’t think that’s something anyone has ever said outside of Chuck Lorre’s home, but, hey, whatever helps you sleep at night, Violet.
One thing I’ve slept on this season is pointing out that Sadie Calvano has really turned into a solid comedic actress. Granted, she shares enough of her scenes with Allison Janney and Anna Faris for this to be largely unsurprising, but it’s still fun to see how she’s learned a facility with acidic comebacks that not everybody in the cast can manage. “Clumsy Monkeys” is largely confined to Christy’s house, and the story almost exclusively revolves around the three women and Luke. Mom is the rare show that’s heading into the end of its first season by gradually paring down its story options, and it’s exciting to watch as it becomes the show it probably should have been in the first place, focused less on Christy’s relationships outside the home and more on those within the home.
As mentioned, the couple that Violet and Luke opt to have adopt their child ends up being a straight couple. On the one hand, as a progressive who’d love to see TV explore topics like gay adoption from the ground up (as opposed to just having it happen in the pilot, as Modern Family tried), this was a little disappointing to me. On the other hand, it resulted in a great line from Violet about how the gay couple wanted to know if the baby’s family had a history of alcoholism, which quickly resulted in the guys losing interest. What’s more, this probably spared us an episode or two where we had to watch Christy and company squabble with Luke’s family about what it means to be a family, something that I’m not sure I’m ready to watch Lorre and his staff tackle just yet. Plus, it got Cartwright on the show, and it seems likely he’ll stick around for at least a few more episodes.
Because I, myself, am adopted and have found my biological family, I tend to be an easy mark for stories like this, but it seems to me as if Mom is doing a fine job at portraying just how hard this decision has been to make for Violet and Luke, and just how hard it is for Christy and Bonnie to stand by and watch it happen, while still being proud of Violet for doing what she had to do. Mom has had empathy for just about everybody in this situation—except for maybe Luke’s parents—and that’s a rare enough quality among sitcoms these days (especially multi-camera ones) that I’m impressed whenever I come across it. In particular, I liked how this episode took Luke’s feelings on the matter seriously, having him fret that he wasn’t sure what his future would look like outside of being a father. It also found time for Jack and Suzanne to share the story of how they had almost been parents a year before, but had found the birth mother backing out at the last minute. These sorts of situations can be hard on everybody, and Mom found a way to convey that handily.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the more dramatic that Mom gets, the more that it relies on guest characters providing much of the humor. In this episode, where the show couldn’t even count on Luke for some easy laughs, things, instead, turned to a lawyer named Steve, whom Bonnie and Christy met at their AA meeting. Played by Don McManus, Steve was a broadly comedic character who was dumped into the scenes with the adoptive parents just because the show needed an easy way to get some laughs from these darker situations, and tossing an old but reformed drunk into the middle of things was the solution to that problem. (Come to think of it, that’s the show’s solution to most problems.) There were a couple of Steve-related moments I liked—particularly when Bonnie and Christy tried to convince Violet they had met him at “a social gathering,” and she instantly realized what they were talking about—but it still felt like a relatively cheap way to goose the situation with some laughs. Much better was the interplay between Jack and Suzanne when he started babbling about fonts in that manner which Cartwright is so adept at.
“Clumsy Monkeys” also introduced (or perhaps reintroduced, since I’m all but certain the series has talked about this before) the idea of Christy’s long-term goal being to become a lawyer. As the episode drew to its end, with Luke and Violet heading off to help Steve file the adoption papers that would waive their parental rights, Bonnie asked Christy just what she was going to do with her life now that her kids would soon be out of it, and Christy announced an intention to practice law, largely because she, as a little girl, saw her mother accused of so many crimes. It’s a sweet idea, and if Mom can pull it off over the course of its run, I’ll be duly impressed. One of the things I got most excited about on 2 Broke Girls was the idea of a rags-to-riches serialized storyline playing out over many seasons. We all saw how that turned out, but Mom is already a much better show than that ever was, so maybe I can hold out hope.
“Clumsy Monkeys” isn’t the show at its finest—and the resolution of the Luke plot, which ends with Jack offering him a job completely out of nowhere, feels like a feel-good ending tacked on for no apparent reason—but it’s a good example of the show humming along in a low gear and acquitting itself quite well. It will need to more consistently hit a higher gear in the future if it wants to keep moving forward, but it’s nice to see that the show can be this entertaining when it’s expending as little effort as possible. Maybe every episode should feature Ryan Cartwright. Just a thought.
- I’ve become fascinated by how often the show uses close-ups of Anna Faris in its shot selections. Multi-camera sitcom directing rarely allows for showy shots or impressive camera move, but I like how often the show focuses on Christy as the person whose emotions we’re supposed to be tracking. It subtly reinforces her as the protagonist.
- Violet seems in awe of Suzanne’s potential parenting skills. Christy is trying as hard as she can not to be offended by her daughter’s enthrallment.
- For what it’s worth, I would absolutely play Clumsy Monkey. Get on that, CBS web team.