You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Mom’ Takes Another Sobering Turn in Exploring Addiction (SPOILERS)

The term “very special episode” has become a rather hoary cliche in sitcoms, historically timed to sweep months like February. Yet CBS’ “Mom” has demonstrated itself to be more organic than most in taking those serious turns, exploring as it does the central characters’ struggles with addiction and financial difficulties, operating in a serialized manner that regularly undertakes pretty striking shifts in tone.

The gambit, notably, hasn’t completely paid off, either in terms of ratings — with “Mom” now being tasked with anchoring the 9 p.m. hour, paired with the return of “2 Broke Girls” — or in prestige and awards, despite a fair amount of critical praise. Nevertheless, Thursday’s episode (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched) offered a strong testimonial to the Chuck Lorre-produced comedy’s willingness to plunge from broad comedy directly into tragedy, swinging from a bawdy bachelorette party to the grief associated with a fatal drug overdose.

That death was all the more jarring because it involved Jodi (Emily Osment), the teen that Anna Faris’ Christy had been trying to take under her wing. The bad news came in the form of a phone call, as the assembled women — including Christy’s mom Bonnie (Allison Janney) — tried to hold themselves together for the sake of Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy) so as not to spoil her wedding day, an event already complicated, in a much more lighthearted way, by her disapproving sister-in-law-to-be, played by Rhea Perlman.

“Mom,” of course, has played the death card before, with the sudden demise last year of Alvin (Kevin Pollak), Bonnie’s boyfriend, which sent her into an emotional tailspin. Throughout its run, moreover, the show has dealt with the tenuous nature of sobriety, milking laughs from Christy and Bonnie’s situation while periodically exploring what happens when an addict falls off the wagon.

These sharp fluctuations really showcase the quality of the performances, veering from jokes about playing “pin the hose on the fireman” to fighting back tears, in an emotionally wrenching way. In that regard, having an actress of Janney’s caliber enables the writers to oscillate between silliness (as evidenced by the episode’s title, “Diabetic Lesbians and a Blushing Bride”) and the sort of drama that ripples beyond a single half-hour. Further driving the point home, CBS had already announced that the episode would come with a public-service announcement featuring U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy along with the show’s stars.

In some respects, “Mom” represents a pretty noble experiment — and like its protagonist, a survivor — as an ostensible attempt to see if multi-camera sitcoms can compete with the single-camera dramedies that have siphoned media attention, time slots and certainly most of the major awards away from them. Yet even in its third season, that still feels like a work in progress, inasmuch as the show hasn’t caught on in the way it could and probably should have, given the boost it initially received from living within “The Big Bang Theory’s” orbit.

Truth be told, it probably requires a producer with Lorre’s clout to champion such an exercise, especially on CBS, and “Mom” deserves credit both for bending the mold and standing a cut above most network comedies. Still, even with the admirable mix of laughs and lumps in the throat that this latest installment elicited, it’s not difficult to understand why the show hasn’t become as addictive as CBS would surely like it to be.


More TV

  • Wanda Sykes Silicon Valleywood

    Wanda Sykes on Doing Business With Netflix: 'They Moved That Comma'

    MENLO PARK, Calif. — Wanda Sykes wears a lot of hats as a comedian, writer, producer and entrepreneur, and that gives her a keen sense of the ever-growing content marketplace. She also has a very clear understanding of what she’s worth in dollars and cents, as she shared Tuesday in her Q&A at Variety’s Silicon [...]

  • Jenna Hager Hoda Kotb

    NBC News Sets Joanne LaMarca as EP, 'Today' Fourth Hour

    Just after NBC News recalibrated the fourth our of its daytime “Today” program, it has named a new executive producer to oversee the show. Joanne LaMarca, a longtime “Today” staffer who left NBC News in 2017 after a long run, will return as the new head of the 10 a.m. hour that is now led by [...]

  • Adam McKay photogrpahed at the PMC

    HBO to Team With Adam McKay on Scripted Showtime Lakers Series

    HBO is bringing the Showtime Lakers to the scripted arena with “Showtime,” Variety has confirmed. The series, which has received a pilot order at the cabler, hails from Adam McKay, who will direct. “Showtime” will be based on Jeff Pearlman’s non-fiction book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.” “Jeff Pearlman’s [...]

  • The 100 -- "Sanctum" -- Image

    'The 100' Boss Breaks Down Season 6's New World and Theme of 'Can We Do Better?'

    When “The 100” returns for its sixth season on April 30, the CW drama will thrust its characters into a brand new world. After escaping a no-longer habitable Earth at the end of the fifth season, the characters went into cryostasis until the planet was ready for life again. One hundred and twenty-five years later, [...]

  • David Milch Deadwood

    'Deadwood' Creator David Milch Diagnosed With Alzheimer's

    David Milch, the creator of “Deadwood,” revealed his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in an interview published Tuesday. “As best I understand it, which is minimally, I have a deterioration in the organization of my brain,” Milch told Vulture. “And it’s progressive. And in some ways discouraging. In more than some ways — in every way I can [...]

  • Jim Lanzone

    CBS Interactive Chief Jim Lanzone: 'We Have a Tiger by the Tail' With Streaming Growth

    MENLO PARK, Calif. — CBS All Access can’t serve up addressable advertising inventory fast enough for marketers hungry to reach consumers watching premium video online. That was the upbeat outlook shared by CBS Interactive CEO Jim Lanzone during his keynote address on Tuesday at Variety’s Silicon Valleywood presented by PwC. “There’s not a form of advertising [...]

  • ÒThe One Where Diane and Liz

    'The Good Fight' Renewed for Season 4 at CBS All Access

    “The Good Fight” has been renewed for a fourth season at CBS All Access, Variety has learned. The legal drama, executive produced and run by Michelle King and Robert King, is currently streaming its third season on the Eye’s digital network. The show “continues to be a flagship original series for the service,” said Julie [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content