Back from hiatus, “Mommies” has dropped “The” from its original title and continues to de-emphasize purported leading characters Caryl (Caryl Kristensen) and Marilyn (Marilyn Kentz) in favor of familiar faces among the supporting cast.
Future tinkering will bring in Peter Scolari as the husband of Barb (regular Julia Duffy, in hopes of capturing the past glory of their teaming in “Newhart”) , and Joanna Kerns as the wife of neighbor Tom (Jere Burns). If this trend continues, Kristensen and Kentz needn’t show up at all and NBC can retitle the series “Mommies’ Neighbors.”
The current episode, billed as a “preview” of the new edition, includes none of the new faces, but is centered around Burns’ character. Faced with his (unseen) wife’s new job, which will move her out of town, he’s intimidated by having to deal with such motherly duties as purchasing a first bra for daughter Beth (Courtney Peldon) and constructing a school play costume for son Jason (Justin Berfield).
“So you must feel even more emasculated than usual,” says Barb in the best quip of Ellen Sandler and Cindy Chupack’s script. “Maybe if you got even larger tires for your car…”
After some warmth and fuzziness with the kids, Tom survives, his manliness intact and the family all the stronger for the experience.
Duffy acquits herself well as something of an overachieving twit (no great change from her “Newhart” role), and Lane Davies has a good scene as Caryl’s husband, offering Tom tools to help with the costume-making — a drill bit for the buttonholes, and a stapler for hemming. Men!
Remainder of cast is OK, if only by family sitcom standards. Though it has its moments, this is not a series that’s destined for any Hall of Fame.
Show moves Jan. 7 to its regular timeslot, Saturday at 8:30 p.m., with an episode (hyped as “premiere”) featuring Rue McClanahan as Davies’ character’s domineering mother.
Oddest aspect of the new development is that now that she’s leaving town permanently, Tom’s previously unseen wife will soon be personified by Joanna Kerns; it may be worth continuing to watch “Mommies” just to see how this is handled.