“Loathing And Tube Socks” is not a great episode of television—though I would argue it’s a pretty okay episode of television—but it’s a good enough episode of Mom to make me think somebody somewhere (probably in the apparently four-person writers room this show has, if the script credits are any indication) is slowly figuring out what this show should be. It doesn’t have a story structure so much as it has a proverbial structure, based around the saying of “If you meet an asshole in the morning, he’s the asshole; keep running into assholes all day, and you’re the asshole.” This saying was used much better on Justified earlier this year, but it’s probably asking too much of Mom to suggest it rise to the level of Justified. (It’s worth pointing out that Justified may have originated this saying. I can’t find earlier instances of it on Google, even though I swear I’ve heard it before. That said, it’s such a good saying that I’m sure that show’s writers wouldn’t mind it slipping out into the cultural lexicon, though they might have chosen a more fitting vessel than Mom.)
Anyway, the basic structure of this episode is that Christy has a really shitty day, and she takes it out on everybody around her. But then, when somebody at her AA group calls her on it, she tries to walk it back by being slightly kinder to everybody around her and trying to let go of some of her anger surrounding her mother. When she does this, people are kinder to her, and she gets a kind of karmic payback from a restaurant patron who was rude to her earlier. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s also not a contrived setup for a sitcom story that relies on a bunch of weird things happening. In short, it’s very little “situation” in the situation comedy, and that tends to be how I like these sorts of shows.
Chuck Lorre’s shows have always been a little story averse. Both Two And A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory will frequently just not have third acts, assuming that the audience can fill in the story’s ending on their own and leaving more time for the jokes, such as they are. (I suspect Mike & Molly is the same way, but I haven’t watched that program regularly in a couple of seasons.) Mom feels like the apotheosis of this particular approach: no story at all. Yeah, there are the loose bones of a story structure here, but we more or less have to fill in the gaps ourselves. It feels, for all the world, like a multi-camera segment of a show that’s more like Louie, centered on one central character and following her through a long day, not so concerned about telling a story as it is getting at some deeper truth.
Now, before you go racing to all corners of the Internet to tell everyone that I said Mom is just like Louie, I don’t think the message being imparted here is particularly deep, nor am I sure the complete absence of story in favor of a handful of loosely connected scenes centered on a particular idea necessarily works. It would on Louie, but that’s an all-time TV classic in the making, while this is… Mom. But I liked that the humor didn’t arise out of contrived scenarios and situations and, instead, arose out of the fact that Christy was just having a really bad day. I suspect this is the stealth success of Chuck Lorre’s shows (well, this and the fact that he makes lots of easy, crude jokes about sex): The stories are rarely all that hard to relate to, because they take place in various spheres we all can relate to either directly or secondhand via a close friend or family member. This episode of Mom is like the ultimate version of that idea, like a little anecdote you’d read in Reader’s Digest.
Of the various pieces of the episode, I think I was most into the scenes with Roscoe (after the ones with Bonnie, of course, because Allison Janney can take a line like “Birthplace of jazz” and make it laugh-worthy simply by putting on a goofy smile). The show hasn’t always served young Roscoe well, but here, he starts to take on his own identity within the ensemble when his mother takes him underwear shopping because he doesn’t have any clean pairs and she doesn’t have time to go do laundry. (I’ve been there, pal.) He doesn’t want underwear with anchors on them, because it doesn’t feel right, and he clearly doesn’t enjoy being dragged into his mother’s weird feud with Jeff, the dollar store clerk. He is, in short, sort of a riff on Luke Dunphy on Modern Family, except he’s apparently sort of smart. (The glasses and his puzzle-doing habit are supposed to convey this.) I like the idea of a book-smart, street-dumb kid on this show, and I like it much better than the direction the show seemed to be going with Roscoe a couple of weeks ago when he said the word “Clitoris” to the general amusement of the audience to close out the episode.
The restaurant scenes continue to feel like a weird appendage from some other iteration of the show. Tonight, Christy breaks up with Gabriel, and a part of me thinks she should maybe just break up with that corner of the show, so little has it added to any episode. Seriously, has Chef Rudy done anything than offered one or two quips from behind the chopping station, to the amusement of his perpetually mute sous chef? The longer the show goes on, the more all of its gravity is contained in the home scenes, and it’s hard to care too much about Christy and Gabriel breaking up when that was never all that important a part of the plot to begin with. Let’s see this show pull a reverse Spin City or Barney Miller and ditch the workplace elements in favor of the home life elements!
Yet those workplace scenes also had Christy’s karmic payback from the man who told her she’d be prettier if she just smiled once in a while (like a lyric from a Shawn Mullins’ song to her heart), then apologized a few days later. It’s not like Mom is gelling, exactly. Christy’s dream that featured both her and Bonnie in sombreros seemed obviously geared toward giving the network something big and wacky to promote, even if that was so far from the tone of the episode. But there’s something weird and experimental about this show that I sort of enjoy, even if I don’t quite like it yet. I might be able to watch a season of this or so, even if I don’t yet know if I can review it.
- Luke the teenage father continues to be a surprisingly adept bit player on the show. I’m enjoying his shtick in a way I rarely enjoy dumb guy stuff.
- On the other hand, Violet feels like she’s a few more episodes shy of the writers really understanding her. Right now, she’s just her mom in teenage form.
- Hey, we got a few dozen words past 1,200 this week. Keep it up, Mom! You’ll get your 3,000 word opus written from the point of view of Bonnie’s AA sponsor yet!