One of the best TV comedies is saying farewell on Thursday (May 13).
But don’t expect a big send-off in the “MASH”/”Seinfeld”/”Big Bang” mode. “Mom” (shown here, 9 p.m., CBS) has spent its eight seasons in a middle ground – usually funny, sometimes poignant, rarely honored.
Its honors have been strictly for Allison Janney, the show’s amazing star – five Emmy nominations and two wins. (There have also been four nominations for editing and one for cinematography.)
The world has always known Janney is a marvel. She won four Emmys on “The West Wing” and two on “Masters of Sex,” plus two more nominations in each; she also won an Oscar from “I, Tonya.”
Janney is perfect here, but there’s much more.
Chuck Lorre is a producer-writer who is capable of greatness (“Big Bang”) or mediocrity (“Mike and Molly”), but usually leans toward the former. His situation comedies are all on CBS (except for Netflix’s “The Kominisky Method”) and have a few things in common:
– Most are filmed in front of an audience. That style has worked forever, from “Lucy” to “Seinfeld” to “Friends,” but nowadays, most sitcoms are made movie-style – single camera, no audience. Even Lorre does that with “Young Sheldon” and “The Kominsky Method,” but not with the others.
– Most will stretch for the big laugh, including sight gags – but rarely at the expense of character. We become fond of Lorre characters, flaws and all.
– And each has a separate showrunner, producing sharply different results.
“Young Sheldon” (8 p.m. Thursdays) is quiet, casual and fairly funny … “United States of Al” (8:30 Thursdays) is pleasant, with few big laughs but lots of likability … “B Positive” (9:30 Thursday) has great moments, propelled by Tony-winner Annaleigh Ashford, the best thing to happen to sitcoms since, well, Allison Janney. “Bob (Hearts) Abishola” (8:30 p.m. Mondays) has its own style, droll and dry and sometimes hilarious.
“Mom” was created by TV veteran Eddie Gorodetsky, Gemma Baker and Lorre, with Nick Bakay later joining as an executive producer. It introduced Bonnie (Janney) and her daughter Christy (Anna Faris) as recovering alcoholics who had teen pregnancies. Now Christy’s own daughter was having a baby; Janney, 53 when the show started, was soon playing a great-grandmother.
But “Mom” soon evolved. Christy’s daughter moved out; so did Christy’s son, who now lives with his dad. This became a show about a mom and daughter who were well aware of each other’s flaws; it was also about Bonnie’s unapologetic rush through life.
This season, the show was wounded by Faris’ departure. Nielsen ratings have dropped 19 percent overall and 23 percent for ages 18-49; that’s fairly typical of this year, and “Mom” remains in the upper third of CBS shows.
Still, shows gradually get more expensive and this one has been cancelled. In its final weeks, “Mom” has been tending to its side characters.
Adam (a parapalegic ex-stuntman who’s been Bonnie’s husband in recent years) has had success with his bar. Lately, we’ve seen many of Bonnie’s Alcoholics Anonymous friends get boosts: Jill got back with Andy, a cop, and found she’s pregnant … Marjorie re-connected with her long-estranged son … Tammy fell for a hunky limo driver.
Many finales have weddings and this one will apparently link Jill and Andy. (They’re shown here, with Bonnie and Adam seated behind them.) CBS says Bonnie also gets some difficult news, giving her a fresh outlook on her sobriety.
Chances are, there will be some somber moments and some funny ones. That combination has propelled “Mom” to eight excellent seasons.