‘Mom’ Review: A 12-Step Up for Chuck Lorre

'Mom' Review: A 12-Step Up for Chuck Lorre

Anna Faris and Allison Janney give a lift — and humanity — to the new sitcom about AA recovery

The new “Mom” feels at first like it's cribbing from other CBS sitcoms: Anna Faris‘ put-upon waitress? Shades of “2 Broke Girls.” She's in recovery? The 12-step thing owes a debt to “Mike & Molly,” whose lead characters met at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. And the struggles with your parents? Isn't that also the hook of this fall's “The Millers”?

But “Mom” has something none of those shows do: Allison Janney. As the mom in the title, she brings humanity to a show that could have been another Chuck Lorre formula brought to life.

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Janney's plays Bonnie, a longtime addict now in recovery. She's so empathetic and comfortable with herself that you can't accuse the show of unconscionably mocking people trying to better themselves. Or of settling for cheap jokes.

Faris plays Christy, a single mom who's new to not drinking. She's a waitress in Napa Valley – yep, wine country – who has a breakdown when a customer tells her she's a really good waitress. Because she'd like to be more than a good waitress. Nothing seems to be on a solid foundation for her: Not her relationship with her two kids, not her job, not her relationship with her married boss.

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Her sobriety is at an awkward stage, too. She's just emerged from using alcohol to hide from her troubles and is now coming to terms with how let down she feels by her mom.

And then a woman beside her at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting asks if maybe she's a little too old to blame her problems on her mother. One guess who the woman is.

The show is a little jumpy until that moment: Christy's breakdown isn't very funny. But once she and Janney's character, Bonnie, start going back and forth, “Mom” starts to click. Faris’ character becomes more grounded once we start to understand where she's come from.

Bonnie has been her daughter's role model in binging, and now she's her potential model in recovery. But Bonnie owns it. She makes her new life look fun. She's open about her past, and about her recovery.

When Christy reminds her mom that she once watched her comb the carpet for cocaine, Bonnie replies nonchalantly, “It's not a sin to be thrifty, dear.”

It's not. And it's not a sin to deliver jokes, either. “3rd Rock From the Sun” vet French Stewart turns up as a chef who specializes in icy one-liners. And Matt Jones plays Christy's ex, who we can't help but like despite his obvious problems. Because hey, he was Badger on “Breaking Bad,” a guy only slightly less responsible than Jones’ character here.

It's also nice to see Faris in a role where she'll get to show some range. In films from “Scary Movie” to “The Dictator,” she tends to be much better than her material. She's an engaging actress, and I hope “Mom” lasts long enough for her character to get to grow. By which I mean, I'm rooting for her. I care what happens. That's a huge compliment when it comes to a new sitcom.

“Mom” feels like a step forward for co-creator Chuck Lorre. I'm going to be honest: I don't like most of his shows. “Two and a Half Men” feels like a ruthless delivery system for lame sex jokes. “Big Bang Theory” feels like cool kids pretending not to be cool.

But “Mom” feels like more than an opiate. We're early in the 12 steps. But heart and commitment mean everything.

“Mom” premieres at 9:30/8:30c Monday on CBS.

  • KBalland

    Great cast, poor concept. 95% of people suffering from substance misuse or alcoholism go to “meetings” and decide it's a religious cult and the “steps” rife with moralizing. It doesn't make for good therapy, comedy or real help to a serious problem. 12Step is not funny and neither is this show “Mom”. Janney and Farris could do better. Boooo Chuck Lorre stop promoting your cult through CBS- one day, perhaps soon, CBS will be sorry they ever bought into that BS.

    • Cee Kay

      I'm going to assume that you've tried AA and not found it to your liking. But unless you also did a year's worth of exit polls, you don't get to insist that 95% of people decide it's a cult. I know a ton of people who would tell you that AA or NA is about the only thing that saved their lives, and they're grateful for it. Sorry you couldn't find what you were looking for.

      • KBalland

        Cee my dear you don't know me at all- I most definitely am alcoholic and I didn't just “try” AA, I “worked the program” for years. Meetings, home group, Sponsor(s), sponsored many, GSR, CPC co-chair, Treatment co-chair, Intergroup 12 Step coordinator, Back to Basics, and led a women's group “One year, One Book”.
        The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMHS) published that in 2009 1.5 million people were treated for alcoholism. AA's membership rate for same year was around 1.4 million in N America. Given that many of the 1.5 million sought treatment before, perhaps 1/3 and given that many AA members had also been members prior years, perhaps 2/3, What the hell do you think the remaining 1 million alcoholics are doing? Dying? In Jail? Institutionalized? Some, yes. But the Great Fact is that millions are recovering and AA has nothing to do with it. I became interested to know how they did it without AA because I was told that without a daily dose of God and other alcoholics, I would surely perish so it was hard at first, but then Holy shit there are real, scientific based, some spiritual and some not, programs and then double gulp, MOST recovered simply on their own. Now, I understand that you may be what the real world calls “one of the unfortunates” that can't or won't accept that and enjoy your basement meetings and the religious cult dressed up and advertised to look like a treatment for substance abuse, but I'm out of there for good reason. No need to apologize, my family, my friends and my doctors are all congratulating me.

        • DEFIANT LOVE

          KBalland — Uh…I just wrote you a big cool reply and then logged in and lost it all…In short, I found your comments very astute and wanted to share a documentary film I made that deals with alcoholism. It is super no budget, but has been nicely received in all kinds of recovery circles and as a watchable documentary. It did not start out as a film, but as an attempt to help a man who had been arrested 100's of times get sober. I feel like you may really find it provoking and I love sharing it. It's not preachy and the only stance it takes is on humanity. It's called “Drunk In Public” and you can read reviews on Amazon if you are interested. Contact me and I can get it to you. Take care, David

          • KBalland

            Hi David,
            I too have had brilliant words on Disqus, only to be wiped out… I was in Europe with limited wifi, but now I've seen the 5 min clip of Drunk in Public on YouTube and read reviews- fantastic! I can't wait to watch in entirety. Reminiscent of Hoop Dreams- good work.

      • KBalland

        And I do get to “insist” whatever I want thanks to the First Amendment. My opinions just happen to be formed on facts and personal insight. Are you the AA police? If so, the States Attorney Generals Office of 13 States and counting would like to speak with you regarding non-reporting of level 1-3 sex offenders with “anonymous” access to minors.

  • greaser1977

    PRETTY MUCH OF A BORE

  • Aziraphale

    I don't know what show these two other guys were watching. The pilot had me laughing loudly a couple of times. I didn't like the character of Christy's daughter–and I think her becoming pregnant was a bit much–but other than that I think this is a winner.

  • Vegas_Val

    Too much going on – job she hates, mother is hateful, boyfriend is married, daughter is a pregnant slut, viewer is disgusted….

  • Michael

    Chuck Lorre is a genius! Everything he does or thinks of turns to gold. Keep ‘em comin’ Chuck!!!!! I'd love to work with him…

  • traininvain

    Wow, a positive review of one of the worst shows I've ever seen. What was this guy watching? I've never liked any of his shows whatsoever so I shouldn't have been surprised not to like this one, although with this show I actually felt insulted by the “humor”.

    • Cee Kay

      He doesn't like BBT or TAHM. You thought he'd be able to see “Mom” clearly for what it is?

  • Madrugo Temprano

    Toward the end of the episode of “Mom” that I watched, a little boy playing a violent video game gleefully tells his dad that, “If you hit the ‘hookers’ enough times [with the bat], they give you your money back.” And then there's a laugh track.

    I don't see anything remotely funny about violence against women, and even less funny about encouraging a child to see women as things to commit violence against. It made me sick to my stomach. I wish Chuck Lorre weren't such a raging misogynist. Otherwise, I'd probably like his shows.