Emmy Spotlight: CBS’s ‘Mom’


When we think about the Emmys and sit down to create a list of predictions, there are shows that are filtered out as non-starter options. This is due to a number of factors: critical reception, awards show bait, freshness versus staleness, and, the most recently relevant criteria, the platform on which a show is exhibited. If a show is broadcasted using streaming services (Netflix, Amazon) or on cable television (HBO, AMC) they become instant possibilities. Television shows on network platforms (CBS, ABC) are immediately removed from consideration. This is the era in which we live, but it doesn’t make it right. Unless shows make a unprecedented dent in a genre (instance Modern Family or The Good Wife), they are not even included in the prediction conversation as though network shows are empty and cheap money generators. Because of this, CBS’s original comedy Mom has not been given the chance it deserves by Television Academy voters and award show pundits.

Mom is a throwback to a different time. A time when Friends and Seinfeld were on everyone’s weekly plans. A time when sitcoms were trendy. It uses physical comedy, obvious and self-aware jokes, a laugh track, and a familiar premise in each episode to familiarizes the audience with the characters, settings, and general storylines of the show in a personal way. Mom conquers all of the tasks of a sitcom as it should with industry mogul Chuck Lorre (Rosanne, Two and a a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, and Cybill) at the helm of the project. Watching Mom is comparable to the Golden Age of Hollywood, where films were routinely manufactured in assembly line fashion and parting from that method was not an option. Mom is the best sitcom on television today, across all networks, managing to keep fresh blood running through the veins of an under-recognized genre.

Mom thrives under the rules of a traditional sitcom. However, an aspect of it keeps fresh in the modern comedic television storytelling of our time: the show is infused a dramatic weight of understanding real-life struggles, specifically those pertaining to addiction. Mom does not glorify the details of the lives of addicts. It understands pain of everyday and matches that with the endeavors faced by those caught in a life resisting addiction. There’s an incredible amount of emotional depth baked into the plots and characters of Mom. The show is able to strike the perfect key in which the drama meshes with the overt comedy.

CBS has created a special show. Mom portrays the hardships of life such as falling off the wagon, losing a loved one, struggling to pay for college, working at a dead-end, low-paying job but submerges those realities in unconcealed laughs and lightness. The Emmys should seize the opportunity to memorialize it as one of the best comedy series of year.

Photo courtesy of CBS.

Perhaps the longest of all Emmy longshots, Mom has made a difference by using old techniques to manufacture something true, meaningful, and, maybe most importantly, pleasurable. Having fun while watching Mom is an effortless task. Whether you find the jokes to be too easy or lacking in scope, Mom is not the show that will make you feel as your time has been wasted. It’s more than just a competent half-hour CBS sitcom. In fact, the show juggles discussion of social class along with its commentary on addiction as well as being progressive enough to have what is essentially an all-female cast ensemble. The greatest feature of its progressive nature is that it does not look for the credit of hosting a call sheet of all women actors. It normalizes and authenticates the stories of women’s lives in the third wave of feminism where women are allowed to make mistakes, be messy, and admit they hurt while remaining powerful, in control, and happy. All of that without having to be attached to a man.

The most celebrated aspect of Mom thus far in its run has been Allison Janney who has now won two Emmys for playing Bonnie Plunket. Everything you may have heard about this masterful comedic performance is true. As Bonnie, Janney continues to stretch herself on the acting spectrum, proving her indomitable talent as a thespian. The character is a riot on the page, but after Janney funnels her skill as an actress into the character, an uproarious, morally dubious, flawed, sympathetic creature emerges and is unlike any other comedic performance in the mainstream. Janney’s work on Mom is the network equivalent to Julia Louis Dreyfus’ cable accomplishment in Veep. If she keeps winning the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, it’s not due to her name recognition and popularity in the Academy. It’s because Janney is indisputably the best.

Having an actor that’s able to keep up with and measure up to Janney is not a small task, but Anna Faris is up to the challenge and delivers in every one of the 22 episodes all season. Faris is the other half to Janney that completes Mom’s soul. Faris faces much more difficult odds in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category, but she has the terrific work in this past season to prove she’s strong enough to stand with the big contenders of the category.

As mentioned before, the glorious array of actresses in the supporting roles of the show strengthen the series, including Mimi Kennedy, Jamie Pressly, and Beth Hall. Mom also benefits from high-profile actresses eager to make guest appearances this season, including Academy Award winners Octavia Spencer and Ellen Burstyn. (Burtsyn in particular could break through and become Mom’s first non-Janey Emmy nomination for her dense work in the season premiere, “Terrorists and Gingerbread.”)

Mom faces tough odds in its award prospects, outside of Janney, who will most definitely be nominated once again and most likely will win another Emmy for the show in September. But my plea to Television Academy voters is to look outside the box of the shows that have been tailored for them. Mom is worthy of more than the dismissive snarls it receives from pundits. It’s a deep, hysterical, dynamic series with marvelous talent on board.

Guaranteed Nominations
Allison Janney, Supporting Actress

Probable Nominations
Ellen Burtsyn, Guest Actress

Possible Nominations
Comedy Series
Anna Faris, Lead Actress
Octavia Spencer, Guest Actress

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