TVRG Snapshot: Mom Season 4 (2016-17)

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 at season 4, a high-energy, gutsy and well-executed entry into the series.   To check out Season 3, click HERE


Following up on SEASON 3's trend of developing a stronger AA focus, character development became a focal point of this powerful season.  Mom continued the serialized format and delivered the riveting pallet of laughs, romance, setbacks, devastation and the principals continuing to strengthen their sobriety.  Bonnie (Allison Janney) led the roller coaster ride as she and Adam (William Fichtner) navigated crazy love, while university bound Christy (Anna Faris) took several beatings this season.  Motherhood became Jill's (Jaime Pressly) focus, Marjorie experienced a dramatic development deep into the season and the Plunkett family continued to find craziness in distant branches.


Save for paring down the bloated cast, few behind the scenes changes shook up CBS' rip-roarin' laugher.  The network courted Thursday Night Football at the season's start, paving a debut for the sitcoms on October 27.  Mom's episodes delivered between 1.18-1.66, averaging 1.43 in a respectable performance despite a seasonal drop.  Compatible neighboring sitcoms presented 9:00 tentpole Mom its toughest challenge as Life in Pieces took the 9:30 timeslot and only jelled as Mom seemed to have toned down its crassness.  Joel McHale headlined The Great Indoors led into Mom in the 8:30 timeslot to gain exposure from uber-powerful The Big Bang Theory.  Unfortunately, Great Indoors hemorrhaged nearly half of its lead in mid-season, often matching or underperforming Mom.  Later in the season, CBS tested Great Indoors on Monday and placed Big Bang reruns adjacent to Mom, replenishing its lost fanbase.  


Despite ups and downs, the Plunkett women exhibited a mature existence as functioning sober members of society.  Bonnie continued dating Adam and delved typical relationship woes as Bonnie learned to consider others and Adam how to cope with dating a volcanic trainwreck.  Christy pressed on in her studies, though she didn't get the memo not to interfere in others' decisions and was on the outs with one of her friends for a time.  Usually steadfast Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy) was dealt a devastating blow to her sobriety, and both Jill and Christy had skeletons from the past shake the present.  Jill again struggled coping with her mother's suicide, leading her to pursue motherhood.  And Christy went to war as Roscoe (Blake Garrett Rosenthal) was busted smoking weed.  One more shock came to the Plunkett women as they discovered an unlikely family member.


Less is more, as Sadie Calvano (Violet), Blake Garrett Rosenthal (Roscoe) and Matt L. Jones (Baxter) were taken off the lead roster and traded out with William Fichtner (Adam).  These three downgrades meshed well with the recurring roster as plot points facilitated.  Julia Lester meshed into the ensemble as teenage Emily later in the season, Leonard Roberts made an amusing entrance as Ray Stabler, and the remaining energy focused on the six principles.  Unlike the last two seasons, Mom devoted less energy to recurring and cameo stars.  Bradley Whitford, Nicole Sullivan, Wendy Malick, (Anna Faris' ex-husband) Chris Pratt, Rosie O'Donnell and Missi Pyle delivered punching cameos aligned around the series' best episodes.


Swing a cat and locate a social issue alcoholics deal with on Mom.  Adolescent experimentation opened the gates for exploring an arc  mid-season (as well as giving former established characters Baxter, Roscoe and Candace something to do).  Infertility and In-Vitro Fertilization became a solid story for Jill after dealing with the anniversary of her mother's suicide.  This followed with a rewarding foster parent arc which Jill takes in Emily (Julia Lester), the daughter of recovering addict Natasha (guest star Missi Pyle).  Relapses also came into light as four of the principles accidentally ingested Adam's pot cookies, leading to humor and humility as the ladies felt they lost their sobriety.  Leave it to wise Marjorie to clarify it was an accident vs. a slip as none of the ladies intentionally ingested.  Dealing with closure and grief hit Bonnie again, and later into the season, Christy dealt with a deep buried secret as her former rapist showed up at an AA meeting.  Yes indeed, this was a tall order for the alcoholics on Mom, and they still managed to deliver the laughs to perfection.


Displaying the ladies' vulnerabilities this season is where the writers knocked it out of the park during the gut wrenching episodes.  Anything with Bonnie crackled.  Whether it was her dating woes with Adam, or dealing with more angst from her mother's death.  Both revealed her vulnerabilities and shifted her from toxic trainwreck toward a surviving heroine.  Janney's exchanges with Adam's ex-wife Danielle (Wendy Malick) crackled, as even Danielle admitted "God help me but I love her."  Bonnie gaining closure at her mother's grave was touching, beautiful and connected the dots in Bonnie's personality, as well as bring a new member to the family with newfound brother Ray.  

Marjorie often spends each episode playing the matriarch/mother goose to the out of control ladies.  The episode which her sponsor fell off the wagon after 52 years not only showcased her vulnerability, but also gave her a long-deserved story since her wedding the prior season.  The lost sponsor story may have been eclipsed by Christy dealing with her former rapist, but also delivered the perfect two-punch method needed for the season's gut-wrenching episodes.  Jill's grief over her mother's suicide exposed why she has remained a disaster, as well as led to a rewarding foster-parent arc where she learned to care for others and give her narcissistic streak a rest.

Season 4 held an embarrassment of riches in great episodes, and nothing stood out more than the 9th episode, "Bad Hand and British Royalty."  This episode showcased Adam's hard partying friends Mitch and Leanne (guest stars Bradley Whitford and Nicole Sullivan) showing up and turning the Plunkett household upside down.  The accolades do not come for the common drunken humor (though Whitford and Sullivan were riproaring and welcome back).  But rather Christy and Bonnie being forced to play the party mom's and clean up after the reckless drunks.  Bonnie's priceless statement came when she told Christy "Be grateful we don't live like this anymore."


What exactly does Wendy do in the ensemble?  Beth Hall is a capable performer, and didn't have a single story of her own.  Wendy's mere existence seems to be a brunette seat filler, as well as the butt of the other ladies' jokes.  Violet's sudden turn as a gold-digging opportunist was unwelcome and regression for her character.  Though Christy made solid efforts in career/educational growth, she displayed unlikeable moments this season when she overstepped boundaries.  Particularly cringeworthy was telling Jill she would make a terrible mother prior to her IVF procedure.  And speaking of Jill, the first episode displayed her mean-girl traits hopefully never displayed ever again.


If viewers believed Season 3 was the best, Season 4 gave it a competitive run for its money.  Again, more emphasis on character development for the trimmed-down cast paid off.  Bonnie and Adam's love story remains a welcome reward for hard-living Bonnie, and her best qualities were displayed this season.  Showrunners spent the last two seasons figuring out how to make Mom work for the audience, and Season 4 displayed their first season they confidently delivered a flawless product.  Enjoy, as this is one of the best seasons offered thus far.

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