CBS has made a dramatic change to its Monday night lineup, thanks to the addition of the gripping Mom to the schedule. Anna Faris plays a 30ish woman struggling with her alcoholism as she tries to make ends meet. Faris works at a restaurant, which we see is crushing her soul in the opening scene as she sobs while working with customers. French Stewart, best known for his work on Third Rock from the Sun, takes on the understated role of the chef, though his narrative arc did not seem to be established in this episode.
The main character’s home life features just as much struggling. When she isn’t locking horns with her allegedly promiscuous daughter, the main character must cope with the short term memory difficulties her six-year-old seems to suffer from. In a scene indicative of the pathos of the series, Faris’ character has to choose between work and going to her son’s talent show, only to discover too late he had the wrong date. This triggered a potential relapse, leading to an Alcoholic’s Anonymous meeting. Also in attendance: Faris’ character’s mom, played by Allison Janney.
Generational traits become more apparent in the later scenes, as Janney’s character also has a penchant for promiscuity with no regard for marital vows of her paramours. All three women (Janney, Faris, and the daughter) have questionable taste in men, and all three have had unplanned pregnancies at an early age—which is the big reveal at the end of the first episode.
The most interesting narrative choice involved how they depicted Anna Faris’ character’s alcoholism. Though she has been sober for about four months, she seems to hear laughter everywhere she goes. Every word or phrase is punctuated with an audience of giggles, regardless of the content of her speech. For example, in a fight with her loser ex-husband, Faris mentions that he is six months behind on child support. Her inner voices (which we can hear) laugh at this, almost as heartily as an opportune punchline which followed.
Though this is not the typical mould of a CBS drama—not a procedural, only a half hour, filmed in multi-cam style—this show tapped into an inner sadness I have not encountered since the short-lived Partners. Come to think of it, that also had the constant-laughter motif, even though what was happening on screen wasn’t funny. Like, at all.