Review: Mom 1×1 (CBS)

Mom on CBS

In the US: Mondays, 9.30/8.30c, CBS

There comes a point in virtually every modern Chuck Lorre sitcom – usually pretty soon on – where you start to despair at the show’s cynicism. People are bad. They’re mean. They’re cruel to each other. The audience laughs.

Then there’s the show’s misogyny. Women are held up for ridicule, told they’re bad for having sex, drinking alcohol or going to parties.

The audience laughs.

Mom doesn’t so much change this as take it to its logical conclusion. Here, Anna Faris is a waitress who once wanted to be a psychiatrist but never quite made it, in part because she had two kids to raise by herself, in part because she drank too much, took other substances and generally enjoyed herselfdid Bad Things.

To be fair, though, she’s a better mother than her mother (Allison Janney) was. Indeed, once Janney shows up you realise that this has stopped being a sitcom and turned into something actually quite upsetting and devoid of laughs. Because it’s surprisingly hard to laugh at characters you genuinely feel sorry for.

Here’s a trailer:

About
From hit-maker Chuck Lorre comes his next big comedy‐an irreverent and outrageous take on true family love‐and dysfunction. Newly sober single mom Christy struggles to raise two children in a world full of temptations and pitfalls. Testing her sobriety is her formerly estranged mother, now back in Christy’s life and eager to share passive-aggressive insights into her daughter’s many mistakes.

Is it any good?
Well, it’s good at making you feel miserable. At raising laughs? Not so much.

As I said, when Allison Janney shows up, things take a turn for the worse. Not because she’s a bad actress – far from it – but because the show passes through a virtual looking glass. Up until that point, it’s the standard Chuck Lorre fare, with crass or obvious line and set-up leading to the follow-up crass or obvious line and pay-off. There’s jokes about smoking pot and drinking too much, sleeping around (obviously a bad thing for a woman to do, of course, and certainly something that if she ever, ever did ever, would make it hard for her to be a mother, if not impossible).

Then, whether it’s because Lorre just had to nudge it all a bit further than he has done with Two and a Half Men or whether he’s simply too busy, what with his now having four sitcoms on CBS at the moment, and took his eye off the ball, things edge over in upsetting.

Janney’s not only the kind of mother who used to get drunk and take drugs, she’s the kind who used to make crystal meth and lick cocaine chunks from carpets. She’s the kind who teaches her daughter how to brave cavity searches.

And suddenly you’re not laughing any more. Suddenly, you’re thinking that this is all very tragic.

And that teenage daughter who’s sleeping around and possibly getting pregnant by her boyfriend is slagging off Faris for only having been sober 120 days. And it’s not funny. It’s just sad.

And Faris’s ex-boyfriend, the father of her children, wants $2,000 from her so he can buy weed and sell it. And it’s not just a comedic problem for Faris to deal with. It’s a tragedy.

If it weren’t for the fact this was shot on glaring video tape in front of a studio audience, you’d be thinking this should be on Showtime or HBO, showing you the misery of the underclass, who try to smile and joke even when the worst is happening.

But it’s not. It’s CBS and you’re supposed to be laughing. But you can’t because it’s just not funny.