Pilot Preview: CBS's Lewd and Heartfelt (!) Mom
Hey you! This isn't a review, it's a PREview. Huge difference. Most notably, the "P." Also, these PREviews are based on early cuts of pilots that might change drastically by the time they officially hit the air, so we can't properly review them. But we CAN give you an idea of what to expect. In this series of early looks at the new shows of fall 2013, there's no contemplating, no deep analysis; just super-duper quick thoughts on what we just watched that we're passing on to you. We'll revisit each previewed show in the fall with the hyper-intellectual breakdowns and fart jokes you're used to from us goons here at TV.com.
Mom – Mondays starting September 23 at 9:30pm on CBS
STARRING AND CREATED BY: This is another brainchild of everyone's favorite laugh-track swami Chuck Lorre, as well as Lorre's frequent collaborator Eddie Gorodetsky (Two and a Half Men, Mike & Molly). Front and center is Anna Faris (Scary Movie) as the titular Mom, and she's backed by an impressive lineup of supporters: Allison Janney (The West Wing), French Stewart (3rd Rock From the Sun), Nate Corddry (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip), and Matt Jones (Breaking Bad's Badger). A pair of youngsters, Sadie Calvano and Blake Garrett Rosenthal, also get their big break as Faris's kids.
THE GIST: Christy (Faris) is a recovering alcoholic and single mom who's raising a teenage daughter and just-under-tween son in wine-soaked Napa Valley, California. To make money, she works at a fine-dining establishment, which takes care of the workplace aspect of the series. Things get a little weird when her hard-partying mom (Janney)—whom she blames for her own troubled existence—comes back into her life.
SNAP JUDGMENT: Ugh, I must be getting old because I almost actually kinda enjoyed this. It's not great, but it's definitely not bad. What separates Mom from the rest of Lorre's work the sense of actual emotion at its center; it's nicely executed and balanced by the awesome Faris and her character's struggle with alcoholism. You actually feel for Christy as she weathers her own personal tempest. Of course there will be sex jokes galore, and yes, a lot of them aren't nearly as funny as the laugh track thinks they are. But there are also a surprising number of them that do land. Stewart is his usual weird self as a persnickety restauranteur, Jones is a deep well of tired stoner jokes, and Janney plays a fantastic opposite to Faris. This is a decent-to-solid pilot, but the real test will be the 22 episodes that follow it; can it stay soulful, or will it just fall into Lorre's pit of perverted gags about drugs and f*cking? My money's on the latter, but this is a good start.
PILOTITIS DIAGNOSIS: Mom's opener is pretty smooth for a multi-camera sitcom, actually. The characters are clearly drawn with quick bits, and their introductions feel organic. There's nothing high-concept to hammer in.
FACES TO LOOK OUT FOR: I guess Faris is already a familiar face, but she's new to the TV world. Jones is also introducing himself to most of the world, namely those who don't watch sophisticated dramas like Breaking Bad.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: There's a great cameo for the CBS comedy crowd early on, and the "Whooooooo!" that erupts from the laugh track is like a trip back to 1980. Speaking of that laugh track, it's awful.
EXCITEMENT LEVEL: The big victory here for Mom is that I didn't hate it, which I expected to. The cast is good, and I don't think I heard one racist "zinger." Progress! Still, too many easy, lewd sex jokes pollute Mom to make it a must-watch, but for a CBS multi-camera sitcom, you could do a lot worse. In that category, it's probably number two to The Big Bang Theory. Compared to the rest of this year's pilots, it's right in the middle. Let's give it a 5 out of 10.
PILOT PREVIEW POWER RANKINGS:
(Where we rank the fall season's pilots based on very early impressions)
1. Almost Human - J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman's robotic buddy-cop drama
2. The 100 - Teens have fun (and die) on post-apocalyptic Earth while the adults fight each other in a big tin can orbiting the planet.
3. Intelligence - Josh Holloway stars as a Cyber Command agent who has Wi-Fi in his brain
4. The Blacklist - James Spader is a master criminal who turns himself into the FBI on one condition: He only works with the pretty new FBI agent
5. Dracula - Jonathan Rhys Meyers is the fanged one in this re-imagining of the classic story of an undead guy chasing his old girlfriend
6. Lucky 7 - A group of gas-station employees win the lottery, for better or worse
1. Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Andy Samberg and a bunch of buffoons are cops in Brooklyn
2. Trophy Wife - Malin Akerman marries into a big family and ends up with two ex-wives and three stepchildren in the process
3. The Crazy Ones - Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar are a father-daughter team in the advertising business
4. Mom - Anna Faris and Allison Janney play a mother and daughter with life problems
5. Enlisted - Geoff Stults goes to army reject camp with his two brothers
6. About a Boy - Jason Katims' TV adaptation of the film adaption of Nick Hornby's novel about a man-boy friendship
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