December 12th, 2019

carole lombard 04
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Cast in critical choice: A celebration of 'Mom'

Director Gregory La Cava, right, poses on the set with four of his "My Man Godfrey" stars: Carole Lombard, William Powell, Alice Brady and Mischa Auer. All the actors were nominated for Academy Awards -- Lombard and Powell as leads, Brady and Auer in the supporting category (newly instituted in 1936). While none won, the nominations were indicative of "Godfrey's" quality.

More than eight decades later, another ensemble in another medium, one in its infancy in 1936, has been recognized:

It's for my favorite sitcom, "Mom," which airs a Christmas-themed episode tonight (9/8c, CBS). (On top are William Fichtner, Kristen Johnston and Allison Janney; below are Jaime Pressly, Mimi Kennedy, Beth Hall and Anna Faris.) On Sunday, it received this honor from the Critics Choice Awards:

That's a pretty heady honor; "Mom" is the only broadcast network sitcom -- multi-cam (filmed before an audience) or the currently more fashionable single-cam -- to be nominated. It's a longshot to win against such formidable cable and streaming competition as "Barry" and "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," but merely being nominated is cause for celebration.

"Mom" is now in its seventh season (and already assured of an eighth in 2020-2021), and while it's never been a ratings blockbuster, it's always performed solidly. The series focuses on Napa, Calif., mother and daughter Bonnie and Christy Plunkett (Janney and Faris) in recovery. Initially a domestic comedy with Christy's two children (from different fathers, remnants of her once-dissolute life) and her ex, the series gradually shifted to the Plunketts' AA group and their collective struggles. Bonnie even got married for the first time to a former stuntman now in a wheelchair (veteran character actor Fichtner, not disabled in real life).

While co-creator Chuck Lorre (whose other hits have ranged from "Dharma & Greg" to "The Big Bang Theory") primarily seeks to entertain, "Mom" isn't afraid to explore the dark side of the show's topic, addiction and recovery. (Lorre's in recovery himself, as is Johnston, who gave a strong performance in last week's episode.) Characters have relapsed -- in its third season, a newcomer character fatally overdosed -- and Lorre discussed this in 2016, (The episode, indeed all eps from its first six seasons, are available on numerous channels, cable, streaming and broadcast.)

Not only has "Mom" won millions of fans (several Facebook groups are devoted to the series), but it's won acclaim for its honest yet funny portrayal of recovery. Superbly acted and smartly written, it's another gem from Lorre, who's tackling immigration in his latest sitcom (and my favorite new series this season), "Bob [Hearts] Abishola" (Mondays, 8:30/7:30c, CBS).

Tonight's episode is deemed the "fall finale" ("Bob" will have its own next Monday), as networks now eschew new episodes during the low-viewer holiday season. But "Mom" will return next month, and look who's guesting in a January episode:

It's Kathleen Turner, playing a long-lost relative of Johnston's ex-con character Tammy. (She joins a list of distinguished guest stars on "Mom," including Ellen Burstyn, as Bonnie's estranged mother, and Linda Lavin.) That promises to be fun.
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