TVRG Snapshot: Mom Season 3 (2015-16)

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.  Please note links are present to get to prior seasons to gain a full glimpse of this rich multi-seasonal show

PREMISE 

Jumping ahead a few months after SEASON 2, the ladies continue their Alcoholics Anonymous hijinks.  The AA ladies became the fitting focus of the series after the prior two seasons struggled to locate plotting balance with faltering scenes in the restaurant and family life.  Christy (Anna Faris) continued her trek through college, Bonnie (Allison Janney) experienced struggling setbacks and growth to her newfound sobriety, and Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy) finally found love.  A teenage addict named Jodi Hubbard (Emily Osment) came into the fold and befriended the "older" ladies.  Love was in the air across the board as Christy, Bonnie, Marjorie and [often absent] Violet (Sadie Calvano) experienced romantic follies of all tastes.  A marriage, engagement, May to December affair and a lesbian twist made for entertaining plot twists.  Another devastating death affected the ensemble; this series seems fixated on a high body count.


BEHIND THE SCENES 

CBS continued its prior trend of entertaining Thursday Night Football in early fall, booting Thursday debuts to November 5.  For the first time since 1949, CBS broke its record setting, landmark Monday sitcom trend and moved all sitcoms away from the lineup after October in favor of hour long Superman.  This left Monday tentpole (and often moved) 2 Broke Girls being displaced, housed following Mom at 9:30.  Freshman sitcom Life in Pieces took the adjacent slot at 8:30 to gain exposure from The Big Bang Theory, creating a slightly incompatible neighbor.


Mom experienced a 26% drop in 18-49 demo ratings, to be expected as the prior season it received a healthy boost housed next door to The Big Bang Theory.  Despite losses, Mom posted episodes ranging between 1.4-1.8, ending the season with a 1.69 average (1).  Contract spaces rotated two players similar to the prior season, rotating the action out of the restaurant and into an AA meeting.  Having appeared the prior season, Jaime Pressly (Jill Kendall) and Beth Hall (Wendy Harris, RN) received contract upgrades, while Nate Cordry (Gabriel) and French Stewart (Chef Rudy) were quietly written out, with only future engagements from Stewart in later seasons as needed.  Though not a contract player, well-received Octavia Spencer (Regina Tompkins) was written out in a storyline-dictated exit.


PLOT HIGHLIGHTS

Serialized plotting fit Mom's tone best, tying into the AA program's "One Day at a Time" mantra.  Season 3 focused on furthering its contract cast members through memorable arcs and developments.  After a loveless season, Christy's world is pleasantly turned upside down as Candace's father Fred Hayes (guest star Harry Hamlin) takes notice of her.  A cleverly written cameo for Rosie O'Donnell fleshed out more backstory as Bonnie's one-time girlfriend Jeanine.  Notable highlights included the reappearance of Bonnie's missing mother Shirley (guest star Ellen Burstyn), as well as Christy's teenage daughter Violet exploring an engagement with much-older Gregory Munchnik (David Krumholtz).  A beautiful wedding and chilling death fueled stories in February, and the ensemble rounded out the season with happy plot twists with Bonnie finding love again, and Christy seemingly balancing her ever-busy schedule and inching closer to her dream.


ENSEMBLE

Like for like cast changes occurred, rotating out underutilized Gabriel (Nate Cordry) and Chef Rudy (French Stewart) in favor of AA gals Jill (Jaime Pressly) and Wendy (Beth Hall).  Repeating the trend of the prior season, balancing airtime for this bloated ensemble became challenging, leaving less space for Christy's family.  While Matt L. Jones (Baxter) and Blake Garrett Rosenthal (Roscoe) enjoyed moderate exposure during the earlier portion of the season, Sadie Calvano (Violet) made scarce appearances.  The series turned another corner as the three mentioned made less appearances as the action centered on the AA ladies.


It was rumored the show's creators worked to secure Octavia Spencer to contract status as her delivery of Regina was well-received.  However, Ms. Spencer maintains an impressively full dance card not only on television and in film.  Instead, Regina was written out in dramatic fashion, never to be seen again.  Emily Osment's Jodi also enjoyed healthy exposure during the first half of the season, as well as Sara Rue's Candace  exhibiting her nastier side during this portion.  Don McManus' Steve continued a lighthearted fling with Bonnie, and William Fichtner began a refreshing arc as Bonnie's wheelchair bound boyfriend Adam Janikowski.   


Season 3 not only held a sturdy recurring roster, but also dashes of notable cameos.  Ellen Burstyn delivered a gut-punch season opener as Bonnie's mother Shirley, Harry Hamlin enjoyed two appearances as Candace's father Fred, Alice alum Linda Lavin delivered two welcome appearances as Gregory's sardonic mother Phyllis, and Rosie O'Donnell knocked it out of the park as Jeanine.  All the mentions were showcased properly like a cameo star deserves and added purpose to scenes.  Contrasted to Beth Hall's Wendy, who could have been mistaken for a houseplant propped around the blonde ladies.

NOTABLE SOCIAL ISSUES

Maintaining the tempo of the prior season, several issues lined the season in small doses.  Child abandonment, paraplegic issues, addiction through the eyes of a teenager and grief's effects on an addict all lined appropriate portions of the season.  The ongoing theme explored from the season's start to finish is the difficulty of determining an addict vs. someone who just had too much to drink and can stop.  After aiding teenage addict Jodi, the leads attempted to "bag a drunk in the wild" and unintentionally assumed an upset woman on a bender was an alcoholic.  Not long after, Regina (Octavia Spencer) decided she was not an alcoholic vs a drug addict, leading to considerable strife for her supportive friends.  As Marjorie sagely explained, the disease is self diagnosed.  And shortly before closing the season, the ladies worried as Violet teetered on the edge, partying much like people do in her age group.


WHAT WORKED? 

The cameos ignited the right energy among the ensemble and were formulated with the proper character vs. plot driven use.  Rosie O'Donnell did more than sit on a chair in an AA meeting as she developed backstory for the two leads.  Linda Lavin's two-punch appearance gave an often frowned on Christy a fan, as well as an ideal relationship Christy yearned for in a mother.  Harry Hamlin's visit suffocated screen time, much like the character and a welcome segue for an often bleak Christy.  The serialized plotting remained consistent from start to finish, and like Season 2, lay the foundation for future plot developments.


This season delivered another heavy dose of heartache, and somehow one-liners effectively jolted the energy back to a lighter tone.  Having recognized how dark the prior season delivered with the material, these lines helped keep consistency with the sitcom genre.  Exploring romance in greater depth helped all who experience it grow in various stages.  Unlike earlier which used this as a plot crutch, the ladies enjoyed longer arcs of happiness, often followed by an epiphany if love burned out.  Although Matt L. Jones' appearances became fleeting deeper into the season, Baxter developed the proper layering lacked in Season 1 which he was on display more.  The season fit a beautiful closing as Christy faced down her fears and checkered past to deliver a candid speech for a scholarship, ending the season in a progressive move and leaving behind her crying waitress phase.


WHAT IS BEST FORGOTTEN?

While the showrunners appropriately pared down characters which lost purpose in prior seasons, the cast remained bloated.  Beth Hall is a capable performer and seemed only to gain a contract as Wendy so another seat was filled at the meetings and coffee at the bistro.  Little character development occurred for Wendy, who seems only to exist as the butt of the jokes as well as being the only brunette lady in the crowded ensemble.  Hall's age left a blank slate of possibilities for backstory, none of which writers chose to explore.  


Given the Plunkett's hold three generations of beautiful women, it was a pity writers could not locate suitable material for Sadie Calvano's Violet to keep her on screen.  A waste as she knocked it out of the park during the first season's pregnancy arc.  By the season's close, the writing was on the wall the series lost interest in the character and she was being positioned to move on.  The writers held a gold mine with the end of the season questioning if Violet was repeating the leading ladies' track record, sadly not to be explored outside this season.


ADVICE TO NEW VIEWERS BINGING THIS SEASON 

This is the season for the romantics!  Plotting was crisp, and majority of the cast experienced love on display.  This season had it all: romances, an engagement, a marriage, a death, long-forgotten relatives showing up unannounced  and plenty of socially relevant drama to spice things up.  Season 3 represents one which the characters turned corners in positive growth.  Bonnie went from a trainwreck relative to domesticated citizen, while Christy finally stopped the sobbing and sopped up knowledge as she worked toward building an established name for herself.  The laughs are paced spot on, and the crassness was dialed down a notch after raunchy displays the prior season.

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