TVRG Snapshot: Mom Season 2 (2014-15)

Looking for an established show to binge or relive old glories and blunders?  If mild spoilers don't deter and readers like a preview of what they can't wait to see, take a glance and locate a new series to add to your collection.  Look back  and explore the 2nd season of CBS' Mom, a make it or break it time which the sitcom succeeded.  


PREMISE 

Following the events of SEASON 1 , the Plunkett women continue to explore sobriety while gaining new challenges.  They face homelessness, a mild dose of luxury thanks to a recently sober connection, a shocking death and a wider bandwagon of ladies finally on the wagon.  Christy (Anna Faris) struggles through the setbacks fighting off estrangements from her children, Violet (Sadie Calvano) and Roscoe (Blake Garrett Rosenthal), while Bonnie (Allison Janney) enjoys a well-deserved romance with Alvin (Kevin Pollack).  Several characters made surprising changes to their lifestyles, while the sober ladies finally gained like friends with a weakness for the spirits.


BEHIND THE SCENES 

Having narrowly survived disappointing demos the prior season, CBS opted to give its neglected sitcom some exposure.  On the other side of the coin, Mom's show runners went for broke and improved the pacing.

Having resided on Mondays at 9:30 the prior season, Mom went on the move in the 2014-15 season with three moves.  CBS opted to update the 9:00-10:00 hour to pave the way for debuting Scorpion, leaving them to initially move Mom up one hour to 8:30 to directly follow The Big Bang Theory {1}.  On September 25, 2014, the network opted to swap Mom with fellow sophomore sitcom The Millers, moving Mom to Thursdays at 8:30 behind The Big Bang Theory.  Mom debuted on October 30 to a sturdy upgrade, matching the pilot's debut at a 2.5 Live/Same Day 18-49 demo.  Growth continued throughout the season, reaching a series high 2.8 in January and February.

Adjoining Chuck Lorre sitcom Two and a Half Men ended its 12-season run, leading to the launch of new sitcom The Odd Couple.  CBS rotated Mom to the back of the schedule behind a Big Bang Theory rerun to not only give The Odd Couple excellent support, but also test Mom's strength without a lead-in.  Ratings trickled between 1.9-2.2, acceptable enough for CBS to grant a 3rd season.  A third move came later in spring to 9:00, the final move where the series rests as of 2020.


PLOT HIGHLIGHTS

The 2014-15 season opened with Christy slipping off the wagon in a cleverly written slip dream.  Where she would fall was worse as she concealed some gambling blunders, leaving the Plunketts losing their modest and inviting home.  Exploits followed the ladies struggling to locate a new home, as well as facing poor decisions from the past.  Christy's father and Bonnie's ex Alvin became a prominent player as he and Bonnie rekindled their old affair.

The action in the Rustic Fig where Christy cried became sparing while the AA meetings ramped up. Wealthy lush Jill Kendall (Jaime Pressly) and weeping nurse Wendy Harris (Beth Hall) joined Bonnie, Christy and Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy) in hijinks and sober living.  Having shamelessly stereotyped stoners the prior season, Baxter (Matt L. Jones) surprised all by cleaning up his act and taking up with wealthy new girlfriend Candace Hayes (Sara Rue).  The Plunkett household was stricken with an unexpected death midway through the season, leading to one of the ladies falling off the wagon.  Not all was bleak as Bonnie located a new profession she schmoozed her way into, and Christy not only earned a promotion, but picked up a long forgotten dream and envisioned becoming a lawyer.


ENSEMBLE

Showrunners swapped contract spaces by upgrading Mimi Kennedy to contract status as Marjorie Armstrong, while Spencer Daniels was downgraded to recurring as Violet's stoner boyfriend Luke.  Writing shifted the balance to more recurring characters on display, while half of contract casts' appearances became scarcer.  Sadie Calvano (Violet) and Blake Garrett Rosenthal (Blake Garrett Rosenthal) saw less appearances following the homeless arc or were window dressing in scenes, while Gabriel (Nate Cordry) and Chef Rudy (French Stewart) only populated supporting roles when Christy was waitressing/sobbing.


Where the series lacked material for those contracted, they made up with a richer supporting roster.  Jaime Pressly broke her abrasive white trash typecasting for hot mess socialite Jill Kendall as Kevin Pollack heavily populated scenes as Alvin Biletnikoff during the first half of the season, followed by Octavia Spencer's Regina making a heralded return for the later part of the season.  Other recurring character enjoyed ample air time such as Baxter's manipulative girlfriend Candace (Sara Rue), alcoholic nurse Wendy (Beth Hall), recovering lawyer Steve (Don McManus), Christy's Armenian landlord/Marjorie's love interest Victor (Jonny Coyne) and Alvin's vindictive ex-wife Lorraine (Beverly D'Angelo).

Mom continued to struggle with shaping the cast members which worked, likely why a large infusion of recurring players arrived.  Episode 11's events represented a tonal shift as it placed more focus on the ladies' efforts to stay sober vs. being two trainwreck alcoholics bumbling through life.  The last half of the season located its consistency despite a ratings drop after losing it's Big Bang lead-in.  By the close of the season, the action centered on the AA ladies, cementing the tone of the series for the remainder of the run.

NOTABLE SOCIAL ISSUES

Few major social issues outside of alcoholism were explored this season.  Whereas the prior season had teen pregnancy as its focus, smaller issues traipsed the 22 episode in welcome punches.  Most notable was grief as Bonnie struggled gravely (no pun intended) for the last half of the season.  Opioid addictions also were touched upon, as well as DUI ramifications.  Domestic abuse became a saddening backstory, and a mild play on sexual harassment punctuated a landmark episode for Christy.  Struggles of the classes and education took center stage with affluent characters such as Jill and Candace contrasting Bonnie and Christy's financial ruin.  While Candace kept an envious Christy wishing she had more financial stability, fellow lush Jull reminded her just because one has affluence and privilege does not leave them immune from the treacheries of addiction.


WHAT WORKED?

Arc storytelling has always worked for Mom in all 7 seasons.  Whether to convey a serious message or give the ladies a pleasant detour, the serialized 3-4 episode tales are where Season 2 mined its best material.  The homeless arc not only defined Bonnie's new purpose besides being the crazy mother, but forced Christy to atone for her reckless decisions.  The grief arc changed the game as the ladies' world changed for better and worse.  Both received a brief reprieve from poverty while Christy finally discovered another branch of family.

The last arc of the season displayed an addict's fall (literally) as an injury led to three episodes of a relapse, displayed front and center for viewers to jerk between laughing and cringing.  Pay close attention, as Season 2 carefully stages elements to be used later such as the lawyer arc and gambling woes.  Mom doesn't resort to thrown together insta-problems, but rather leaves indicators in plain sight to be used later.

Outside of the arcs, character development for the leads became a priority for writers.  Christy's fairytale vision of a lawyer ignited as she used her stripping experience to help bumbling lawyer Steve (Don McManus) win a case.  Jill's manse became a posh escape for several ladies' grim lives, and when not lavishing in Jill's riches, the AA ladies made their local bistro an appealing hangout.  Writers received the memo to dial it down on Christy's horrid Rustic Fig workplace and instead handed us a lovely hangout vs a toxic workplace peppered with doses of Chef Rudy's amorous behavior.  Bonus for constructing Marjorie's lovely and inviting (yet covered in cat hair) home which the Plunketts briefly stayed.  And there after showed up to dump their problems.


WHAT IS BEST FORGOTTEN?

Christy's gambling leading to eviction led to entertaining changes for Bonnie and Christy.  And is best forgotten, as they featured some of the grimmest backdrops with the family forced to take refuge in a no-tell-motel riddled with meth labs and porn shoots.  Addiction is ugly enough to look at in every episode, and be grateful this remained a temporary eyesore for viewers.  The ladies' angst reached frightening heights during the relapse arc, running the risk of making the leads unlikeable due to their bitterness.  Tensions between Christy and her children also were a downer as eldest Violet plotted her escape from the chaotic environment and youngest Roscoe drifted closer to his fathers' more stable homestead.

Crassness hit its height this season as the ladies displayed they were equal opportunity offenders as males with toilet humor.  Though entertaining, Bonnie taunting her rival with a visual of a hoo-ha pushed the boundaries of network television and made neighboring sitcoms Two and a Half Men and 2 Broke Girls blush.  After her rival boasted about she had her late ex were together for 30 years, Bonnie's priceless insult of "From what he told me, so were your legs!" would have sufficed without Bonnie's visual mentioned above.  Crass is fine, in moderate doses.


ADVICE TO NEW VIEWERS BINGING THIS SEASON 

The show gets better as it moves along.  Season 2 began shaking off what didn't work, leaving space for more appealing backdrops and purposeful characters.  Majority of what showrunners delivered this season succeeded, as well as set up dynamic, consistent plot and character opportunities in season 3.  Unlike most tired series late in their run who rewrite history to deliver a fresh plot, Mom valued its past and held its prior deliveries in regard for better or worse.  Season 3 featured many great arcs, another untimely death and a balanced cast, so stay tuned.


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