TVRG Snapshot: Mom Season 5 (2017-18)

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


Bittersweet is the best way to describe this season, and in irony a component of a great drink the ladies used to love.  An engagement, relapses, second hand addictions, failed romances and the hijinks of the AA Ladies delivered another sturdy entry in Chuck Lorre's sturdy sitcom.  It is obvious Adam and Bonnie were the engaged couple (no one else was attached the prior season, leaving few plausible options besides a quicky romance off screen).  Jill and Christy developed second-hand addictions, leaving both women at a crossroads with a drink in hand with one relapsing. 
nd Marjorie was dealt a devastating blow that pushed her to the brink.  Season 5 sounds like a bleak entry as described yet was nothing of the sort.


The network courted Thursday Night Football at the season's start, paving a debut for the sitcoms on November.  Unlike the prior season's obstacle of having a turkey of a lead-in like The Great Indoors, Mom received an upgrade as The Big Bang Theory prequel Young Sheldon burned into the lineup as a solid player, helping Mom hold steady as the season saw drops across the board.  Mom's episodes delivered between 1.3-1.8, averaging 1.45 in a respectable performance that held steady.    The main cast remained steady, although Jaime Pressly was noticeably absent for many episodes as she welcomed twin boys in October.  To account for her obvious appearance changes (and to avoid hiding her behind booths and objects to obscure her baby bump), Pressly donned a fat suit as Jill gained weight to obesity, then went on a retreat to lose said poundage.


With Pressly off canvas for many episodes, the focus reverted to Christy (Anna Faris) and Bonnie (Allison Janney) with pepperings of Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy) dealing with heavy life changes.  Christy finished her final stressful year of her Bachelor's Degree and struggled with locating a Law School to accept her, leading her closer to a drink.  Not all was bleak as she found herself enjoying the company of not one, but two contrasting gentleman this season.  Bonnie dealt with the frightening realities of engagement to Adam (William Ficthner) as well as her newfound brother Ray (Leonard Roberts) falling off the wagon and her fretting how to aid him.  Every season packs its dark episodes, and Marjorie was next in line to receive one.  Rather than go with the overplayed death card in Season 5, Marjorie's husband Victor suffered a debilitating stroke and forever changing her.  Marjorie's challenges led to a meltdown and Christy seeking a new sponsor.  Christy finally graduates, though to greet an accomplishment and a massive setback in the same week.


A lack of cast changes once again facilitated Mom to open the floodgates to a healthy recurring roster as well as welcoming new cast members.  Julia Lester (Emily) and Missi Pyle (Natasha) traversed the earlier portion of the season before exiting.  A pity as Pile meshed well with the ensemble and held potential to be a regular (and she was more developed in 6 episodes than Beth Hall's Wendy has been for prior seasons).  Leonard Roberts made two appearances as Bonnie's newfound brother Ray, again under bittersweet terms as his addictions were front and center.  Michael Angarano came into the fold as Christy went cougarific and dated her twenty-something classmate.  His presence was ousted when she became acquainted with Adam's brother Patrick (who was utilized to fill the story void left by Pressly's maternity leave).  And Community Veteran Yvette Nicole Brown emerged late in the season as Christy's no-nonsense surrogate sponsor who forced her to steer away from her hapless victim tendencies with doses of pragmatism.  And of course, what would a sitcom be without cameo stars punching in episodes?  Kristin Chenowith, Patti Lupone and Kristen Johnson all made noticeable entries, one of which would eventually work their way up to a mainstay player!


Relapses and second hand addictions were this season's core focus as several players befell these issues.  Jill (Jaime Pressly) opened the season to obesity as her pending fears of losing foster daughter Emily and turned to food.  Her extremities forced her into another "rehab" when she checked herself into a spa to drop the weight.  And Christy pushed herself so hard to graduate that not receiving a single Law School acceptance letter led a classmate to put a shot glass in her hand in a dark moment.  Both women suffered from a common trigger for people to turn to drinks as they achieved the difficult, then were left wondering "what is next?"  For Christy, it was finishing her Bachelor's with nowhere to go.  For Jill, she worked toward returning to her cherished figure and realized she still had a void in her life.

Marjorie's husband Victor suffering a massive stroke shined a light on senior stress as her unexpected responsibilities exhausted her high bandwidth of patience.  The breaking point came during a shocking meltdown in a grocery store witnessed by Christy, leading her to seek another sponsor.  It sounds like plot-driven writing until an unwitting Bonnie figures out Marjorie's recent struggles stem from she has been without a sponsor since her prior one relapsed the following year.  Season 5 showcased new layers of an addict's struggle as even a woman 37 years sober could forget the fundamentals of what is needed to avoid the nasty realities of a relapse.


After 4 years of a tired and dated title sequence focusing solely on Christy (and featuring two cast members who exited after Season 2), showrunners updated the title sequence appropriately showcasing the AA Ladies (at their worst to great humor).  Rather than it just being Christy's drunken antics, they showed all the ladies in their drunken downfalls, integrated with a lovely closing shot of the two primary stars.  Few broadcast network series commit to an opening title due to time constraints, and Mom kept a classic art alive vs. just flashing a lazy title card.  These touches remind viewers why they tune into TV's oldest institutions with flashier shows now streaming online.

With Pressly out on maternity leave, the writers had a huge void to fill (and no, this isn't fat-shaming Jill's fictional fat suit).  Where the show knocked it out of the park was it utilized that space to deepen Bonnie's character yet again.  Always strong but a trainwreck, Bonnie stepped up to plate and took some weight off of Marjorie's shoulders as the supporting boulder for the group.  When Christy pouted about the expense of Law School applications, she cut the cord in her household to bring in more money.  Ray returning addicted to cocaine left her frantically working to save a family member who refused.  Not all of Bonnie's generosity was met with saddenings as giving newly recovered addict Natasha a shabby apartment to rebuild led to her starting over and greater adventures with her daughter.  And after experiencing the horrors of a robbery in her home, Bonnie took a bold plunge and made amends to a woman whose home she robbed years earlier.  Bonnie evolved from a self-centered scene stealer to heroine territory as her protective nature even led to her being jailed (again) at the close of the season.  All of Bonnie's actions carried the void left by a cherished character.

Some sour moments led to some of the greatest.  Mary's (Mary Pat Gleason) Christmas heartbreak over her troubled grandson resulted in the ladies rallying around her to keep her strong and sober.  And Ray's refusal to get clean exhibited Bonnie delivering tough love despite loving her newfound brother.  Nora's entrance into the AA scene left great potential for Christy to crawl out of her self-pitying shell and start dealing with her life in a pragmatic stance.  Nora seemed to have voiced what tired viewers were stating with every season felt like a broken record with Christy's mishaps and it was time for her to start behaving like a strong woman in her age group.


Steven Weber is a talented performer whose character Patrick's timing was mismatched being paired with Christy.  Had the two been aligned in prior seasons, it would have fit the tempo.  However, the series established Christy is only capable of light relationships given she has too much going on in her world.  Had he been designated to a few episodes, the character would have suited.  But why would viewers invest in his character when they see the writing on the wall that he will be gone soon?  A pity they didn't utilize Patrick to be paired with Wendy, someone who seldom receives her own story and could have built a longer stay for him.  Patrick and Wendy would have made an age-appropriate pairing, not to mention the comic gold the two could have struck if this brought Wendy deeper into Bonnie's orbit.

The writers evidently wanted Jill's quest for motherhood to be explored in later seasons.  But with Pressly's sudden pregnancy announced late during filming of Season 4, why not utilize the opportunity then!?  Motherhood helped Jill turn a corner the prior season, so why not prepare and give viewers a story they couldn't wait to see play out vs a cliche overeating story?  Jill's character is a frail trainwreck full of possibilities, and having a new baby could have been a prized opportunity as the ladies would be forced to support her as a village.


Advanced plotting and character progression may make Season 5 a tougher place to start watching Mom, but it can be done.  The lack of Jaime Pressly also showcased a change in tempo, so new viewers may best start in Seasons 2-4 if they have the chance.  That aside, the series delivered a strong entry dealing with the nastiness of alcoholism while locating a laugh.  

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