Mom: TV review

Anna Faris's new sitcom isn't afraid to tread into dark territory in search of laughs.

Photograph: Monty Brinton
Anna Faris and Allison Janney star in Mom on CBS

For his fourth CBS sitcom, super-producer Chuck Lorre isn't resting on his laurels. Yes, it's another multi-camera series and has a tendency to lean on sophomoric humor. Mom, however, carries its comedy into some dark territory and it's a risk that offers intriguing results.

Single mom Christy (Anna Faris) has recently made the decision to turn her life around by going clean and sober after years of heavy drinking. Her new-found temperance does have its downsides; now she's very aware of what a mess her life truly is. She works as a waitress at a high-end restaurant and has been sleeping with her married boss (Nathan Corddry). Her teenage daughter (Sadie Calvano) appears destined to repeat all of her mistakes, and Christy has difficulty disciplining her having been an absentee mother for so long. Her son's father (Matt Jones) is a deadbeat who's behind on child support and still hitting her up for money.

In the midst of all this misery, Christy finds herself reunited with her estranged mother, Bonnie (Allison Janney), at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Christy learned much of her self-destructive behavior from her mother, who spent her daughter's formative years drunk and high. To encourage her children to forgive her for her own mistakes, Christy reluctantly decides to invite Bonnie back into her life and attempt to mend their severely damaged relationship.

Mom's set-up is the stuff of maudlin Lifetime movies, but believe it or not, everything here is played for laughs, generally to great effect. Much of this credit can be given to the very funny Faris, who carries much of the pilot's weight on her shoulders. Janney, Jones and Corddry certainly round out a very talented ensemble, but they aren't showcased very much in Mom's first outing.

Not everything in Mom works well. When Christy unloads about her dysfunctional relationship with Bonnie at her AA meeting, it's met with rousing laughter from her fellow attendees when uncomfortable chuckling would have been more appropriate given that very little of what she has to say is anything but tragic. French Stewart's turn as the pretentious chef of the restaurant Christy works out is overly broad, as if he's a reject from the 2 Broke Girls diner staff.

Mom could certainly fall into the patterns of Lorre's other projects in the coming weeks as it tries to walk the tightrope ofhow to spin laughs out of Christy's misery. Faris does great work helping you smile through her character's tears, but you can only make so many jokes about your mother licking cocaine crumbs out of a carpet before the darkness outweighs the light.

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