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Anna Faris as Christy; Allison Janney as Bonnie; Sadie Calvano as Violet; Nate Corddry as Gabriel; Matt Jones as Baxter; French Stewart as Rudy; Spencer Daniels as Luke; Blake Garrett Rosenthal as Roscoe; Kevin Pollak as Alvin
Paul Asay

Chuck Lorre is the creator of Dharma & GregThe Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men, and he's made a chunky fortune off traditionally shot sitcoms, off-color punchlines and sometimes loathsome characters. Now he has a new show on CBS called Mom, the review of which we can start with:

It's not altogether bad.

Oh, it's still bad. In some respects, it's quite terrible. While sometimes funny, Mom will do anything for a laugh—at least, anything the network's censors will allow. Sex? Flatulence? Treating family members like something stuck to your shoe? Yeah, it's all there. Mom's metaphorical foyer is paved with swear words, its walls built of problematic content. And the actual moms who live there—well, to say that they're kinda flawed is to say that Fat Man and Little Boy were kinda dangerous.

Eldest mom Bonnie Plunkett is a former drug addict and dealer—a less-than-ideal materfamilias for her daughter Christy. The younger woman learned her mother's lessons well and became a drug addict and alcoholic herself, though she did steer away from Bonnie's illegal career path, opting instead for a more stable occupation … as a stripper.

Christy is now, of course, raising a daughter of her own: Violet, a 17-year-old high schooler who slept with her boyfriend and is now pregnant. She's due to give birth any episode now—most likely during sweeps month.

It seems that all these characters might've been served well by some pragmatic advice from, I dunno, a family-focused Christian ministry of some sort. Or even just half-hearted help from more stable friends. Or almost anyone, really. Anyone this side of Kim Jong Un might be able to give the Plunketts cogent advice on family.

But here's the thing: In the midst of these flaws we see these women trying to move past the past and do what's right (though, admittedly, using their own faulty moral compasses). Bonnie is trying to make up for past mistakes by now being a better mother and grandmother. Christy, no longer a stripper, is doing her best to love Violet through a really difficult time. Violet (with the help of her beau, Luke) tries to move through her pregnancy with grace and humor. And as of this writing, she's planning to put the child up for adoption—to break the cycle of dysfunction she's seen play out in her own family, she says. (That's both a responsible and strangely brave message for a show like Mom to proffer.)

In a recent episode, Violet refuses to go to her prom in part because her life, she feels, isn't worth celebrating. Christy encourages her, telling her that she's dealt with her pregnancy with courage, and that a rewarding life is waiting for her around the bend.

"But I'm giving up my baby to do it," she says.

"Yeah, you are," Christy admits. "But let's not forget that the Taylors (the adoptive parents) are a great couple, and that child's going to have a big, wonderful life, too."

How nice. Better, how true.

And then Violet lets loose a fart and the moment is lost. It feels like a Chuck Lorre show again.

Episode Reviews

"Broken Dreams and Blocked Arteries"

Despite spending lots of money on a dress, Violet decides not to go to prom because (in part), "I can't stop farting," she says. (And she proves it.) Meanwhile, Bonnie hates the fact that her ex-husband, Alvin, seems to be trying to buy the love of Christy and Violet.

Violet quips that the prom's theme this year is "Broken Condoms, Broken Dreams." We hear that Alvin's other ex is now living with another man, and we're told they "tweeted into each other's pants." Christy examines a sequined dress and wonders when gay men started designing maternity wear. She tells stories of her stripping days. And we hear something of Bonnie's cocaine days as well. Bonnie admits to shooting one of Alvin's toes.

People make jokes about venereal disease. Baxter, Christy's ex, asks if their young son, Roscoe, is allowed to watch R-rated movies. When Christy says no, he wonders whether she'd make an exception for a film that just had breast nudity instead of full nudity. Characters say "a‑‑," "d‑‑n," "h‑‑‑," "p‑‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and (if you include the "previously on" segment) "b‑‑tard." God's name is misused a half-dozen or more times.

In Lorre's closing slide, he declares that the sanctity of marriage died with the birth of the pill, and that the "blood-drenched reign" of male-centric religions and social institutions is ending.