September 25, 2013

TV: Mom (Mon 9:30, CBS)

Mom can't quite make up its mind, at least in the pilot, what kind of sitcom it wants to be. There's a wacky workplace sitcom about our central character Christy (Anna Faris), who's a waitress at an upscale restaurant; Nate Corddry is her blandly stuffy boss and French Stewart, still gifted with the ability to milk huge laughs from punch lines that aren't really very funny, as the pompous chef.

There's a domestic sitcom about Christy the single mom of two, teenage Violet (Sadie Valvano) and pre-teen Roscoe (Blake Garret Rosenthal), dealing with Violet's dimwitted boyfriend (Spencer Daniels) and Roscoe's irresponsible dad (Matt Jones).

And there's the most interesting show of the bunch, in which Christy, an alcoholic who's just hit four months of sobriety, is horrified by the reappearance of her estranged mother, Bonnie (Allison Janney). Bonnie's been sober for a few years now, and wants to mend fences with Christy, who wants none of it.

But Christy worries that Violet is on track to repeat the same mistakes she made, and feels compelled to build a new relationship with Bonnie when Violet challenges her: If you can't forgive your mother for her bad parenting, then why should I forgive you for yours?

Mom is at its best when the focus is on the relationship between Christy and Bonnie; when Faris and Janney are on screen together, it has the makings of something very special. But of the many possible versions of Mom, that's probably the hardest to write, and it's been a long time since Chuck Lorre showed much willingness to rise above the easy. The pilot is good enough to keep me watching in hope, but I fear that it probably won't live up to its potential.

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