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Mom- Episode 1.01 "Pilot" Review- Nothing you haven't seen already

Mom premieres Monday September 23 at 9:30/8:30c on CBS.

“Mom” is one of those sitcoms that just happen to be on TV; there’s nothing special about this kind of shows, they are just running for 30 minutes in one channel or another and they usually manage to get ratings high enough to be around for several seasons. Fans of the show will probably be casual viewers, and not passionate fanbase like comedies like How I met Your Mother, Community or The Big Bang Theory have mustered. This comedy doesn’t hope to get that kind of traction; instead it creates an environment for casual viewers to hop in for some kind of relief after a stressful day, so they can laugh at the hard times of someone else with jokes that have no other meaning than that: it’s like sort of torturing someone before your eyes so you can say “compared to that guy/girl I got it easy”. There are many, many shows like this in television and the problem with this kind of comedy is that it doesn’t expect you to care all that much for the characters; instead it hopes you think of them as idiots of some sort so you can laugh at them. I consider that to be a cheap approach to comedy, but it is undeniable that it works when it’s about gathering a mass audience and as such I wouldn’t be surprised if this show becomes one CBS’ highest rated shows.

You’d probably guessed it by now: I didn’t like “Mom”; I don’t like its approach, its characters nor the jokes for that matter, which I found to be extremely flat and unoriginal, mostly a carbon copy of what others show have done far better. In fact, nothing in this show is actually new: we’ve seen all the comedic resources used here in some other shows, especially in Chuck Lorre’s shows like “Two and a Half Men” or even some other cable comedies like TBS’ “Men at Work”; it’s often overloaded with sex jokes and that kind of stuff. Now, don’t get me wrong, you can make a good sex joke (How I Met Your Mother has done so brilliantly), but here they are used too often and they are very shallow; there’s no real point in them, it’s like the writers are expecting you to laugh because sexual intercourse is mentioned in the phrase; that worked great for shows back at the start of 2000 when these kinds of topics were just recently started to be issued on TV and it ended up being groundbreaking, but now by 2013 it has become one of the most used comedic resources. It kind of works like this: “Can’t think of a punch line for a joke? Make a sex joke instead! Can’t find anything compelling for a character to say? Sex joke it is!” And so on and so forth. This is cheap work, and it’s only used because it has worked so far, but the fact is that it’s getting old. If you want to make these kinds of jokes, you have to put some more effort into it, give it a little spin or creativity. But that’s not the case in Mom: these kinds of jokes fall in the so usual “I can’t believe I sleep with that guy” to “I just want to have sex with random dudes” territory, and if you tune in for Mom this Monday you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Now, if only the jokes were shallow there would still be hope for the show, as the jokes could improve along with show run, and even the worst told stories can be carried over with good character and good actors. Sadly, it’s not the case. The characters happen to be as flat and shallow as the jokes I previously mentioned.

Now, we have our protagonist (the mom) Christy, who actually behaves and almost feels like a real human being and it’s the only character the shows works to add some layers of depth along the pilot, but the rest of the characters don’t show such work done on them: we have the ill self-centered mother figure, Bonnie, the rebel teenage daughter who hates her mom, Violet, the supposedly sweet son, Roscoe, his pot headed father, Baxter, the boss and also lover who is understanding but a whim, Gabriel, and so on.

One of the characters that really bugs me is Violet; she is so stereotypical, mean girl, easy lay, rebel teen, but none of these personality traits strikes me as organic; I have a hard time understanding why so many TV writers think every single teenage girl should be like this, and in this case I can’t come to understand why Violet is seemingly such a heartless bitch to her mom; if I saw my mother working all the time to get me through school and look out for me I’d surely be more grateful and cut her some slack. Granted, there’s a lot we don’t know about Christy, and we are given the information that she had a drinking problem, but that’s not enough to establish the daughter’s behavior, which viewers will only think as stereotyped; apparently she was made this way just because she is a teenager, not because there’s more reason to it.

The son, Roscoe, on the other hand, doesn’t bring anything to the mix either; while he doesn’t shout out any stereotype like her big sister, he is just plain, his jokes don’t land well in any given context, and I’m not really sure what to think of him, he doesn’t really show any personality traits to define him. Also, his interactions with her sister on the episode are virtually non-existent; I don’t know if this is for the better or the worse, but I’d surely would have liked to see more interaction between them, maybe humanizing Violet by showing us that she has a good relationship with Roscoe could have made the pilot a little bit more heartwarming and also would have established Violet’s character better, but at the same time we could have just got the typical brother/sister quarrel which is so over done that I would rather not risk it. We might see this developed in future episodes… if we gather the will to watch another episode.

In the world of “Mom” there’s no character that really caught my attention or that would make me want to tune in for another episode the following week; they all can be summed up to one or two words: “alcoholic”, “pot head”, “heartless”, “mean”, and so on and so forth. There’s nothing deep about them. Christy might as well be the only slightly sane in this crazy world of hers and the only one with a glimpse of depth as I previously mentioned: her scene in the AA seemed quite heartfelt to me, it was really natural the way Christy just pointed out how it sucked being sober for her and even more so the laughs from the people there and yet even more so the look on the faces of those people, it just seemed like something that would happen in real life and it was kind of sweet how welcoming and warm these people were, even if they didn’t say a word, and that’s just great. It was a good scene, the kind that makes you smile. But sadly good things often don’t last, and as soon as Christy’s mom (Bonnie) pops out every good will built up by that scene is thrown down the toilet.

Things don’t get any better when Christy and her mom go out for coffee. Christy’s mom is another one dimensional character, some kind of laid back, self-centered woman who just doesn’t care about talking out loud about sex, drug consumption or things like that; and no one seems to care other than Christy; in the real world this would at least raise an eyebrow from the people around them, but not here, which makes Mom’s world even more shallow and plain.

Near the end of the episode the writers try to create somewhat of an emotional environment when Violet confronted Christy about not being the best mother, but it’s all ruined with bad lines and cheap jokes; the moment itself is both cheesy and cliché and doesn’t feel organic, unlike the previously mentioned AA scene. And to make Violet even more unlikeable, even when Christi did as she requested she still treats her like shit. And that’s just bad taste.

Now, by the end, the episode tries to somewhat redeem a little bit by having Bonnie showing up in Christy’s house to help out a little, but soon after she goes on a date, because everyone in this shows needs to have an active sex life, except the son, who I guess is 10 years old or something around that age, and yet I wouldn’t be surprised if he started talking about sex now and lost his virginity by season 3 or 4 when he hits puberty. Yep, it’s that kind of show, reminiscent of what Two and a Half Men did to Jake over time.

In the end, there are a few moments that could be considered good, but the problem is that among the 21 minutes the pilot spends with one dimensional characters and flat jokes, those good moments are no more than 2 minutes; but man, those 2 minutes shows us that this show could actually be good if the premise was worked out better.

Anna Faris does ok in the role, she is a capable actress and could shine if given better material, but the rest of the cast just fall flat, they don’t make any impression whatsoever; they play their character’s traits with no effort, and just imitate what has been done in other shows, and it has been done better.

Mom is a sitcom that follows all the rules of a bad sitcom:
-Overstuff with flat jokes and weak punch liners? Check.
-Create several one dimensional characters that serves about just one purpose and hope it works out as funny? Check
-Sex jokes because sex is funny? Check.
-Drugs joke because Breaking Bad is hot right now? Also check.

There’s nothing original here, you can watch far better sitcoms, both single and multi-cameras, in almost any single channel. At least I didn’t see any reason to tune in next week for Mom. Except, maybe, to see if the writers are able to pull a miracle in the second episode and change the focus of the show to one that could make the characters deeper, easier to relate to, more sympathetic as well and to see if they can pull of some better jokes. But by watching the pilot alone there’s no indication the show will take such turns, yet one can hope.

I think I’ll watch 2 or 3 more episodes just in case the show decides to get in track as, to be fair, there have been many shows with weak pilots that become better as they progress. However, I hold no such hopes for Mom: it seems like Christy, a nicely crafted character, is cursed to be trapped in a world full of mean or outright stupid people, and that’s just sad to watch.

Grade: D

I'm currently studying Psychology while also writing fantasy books (one already published in my home country, Chile, you can check it out on the facebook icon). I watch many different types of shows, including my favorites Revenge, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time and about 23 more. Currently writing articles and some reviews as well

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