Again with the Rob Ford fandango and the TV and culture. See, television explains everything. But first, this – it’s Monday, and me, I like a happy show.
It’s true. There’s enough room for the gloom and grim complexity of serious dramas. But not all the time. Recently, after catching up with the final episodes of FX’s The Bridge, my view of humanity was so bleak I almost took to strong drink. But I didn’t.
Light comedy is grand. A bracing distraction and a relief from real life. You think.
And then along comes Mom (CBS, CITY-TV, 9:30 p.m.) which is advertised as a comedy. And it is funny at times. Slick, a bit dumb, but with some memorable barbs. Yet it is, in truth, a comedy about recovery from addiction. While it was in development it was synopsized as being about “a newly sober single mom who tries to pull her life together in Napa Valley.” A sitcom about getting and staying sober. Chew on that. Yep, chew on it and it might just illustrate something going on right now.
Mom is the creation of Chuck Lorre (Two and a Half Men, Mike and Molly, The Big Bang Theory). Back in the summer at the TV critics’ press tour, Lorre told us about Mom: “This is a story that’s very meaningful to me because it’s about starting your life over again, repairing the damage you’ve done. Nothing to do with me personally, but fixing the mistakes you’ve made in the past, restoring relationships, getting another start.”
On the show, Anna Faris plays Christy, a recovering alcoholic and single mother trying to pull her complicated life together. Mostly, she has brittle, funny arguments with her acid-tongued mother Bonnie (Allison Janney), and that’s where the comedy resides. Bonnie, too, has been a drunk and drug-addled, and hit rock bottom. The opening episode had this exchange – Christy: “Mom, I’ve watched you lick cocaine crumbs out of a shag carpet.” Bonnie: “It’s not a sin to be thrifty, dear.”
There is also the matter of Christy dealing with her own teenage kids, who can be wayward. She has said this to her daughter, “I can’t tell you not to drink and smoke pot, because my senior yearbook quote was, ‘Let’s drink and smoke pot.’”
And people wonder why Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s supporters are so forgiving of his indulgences in drink and drugs? People are astonished when polls show that Ford’s support remains stable or even rises? Sure, a bunch of his supporters wish he’d take time off to clean up, but that’s just giving the guy the break he deserves.
Ford is a Sarah Palin-like figure, an emanation of the reality-TV culture, anchored in the belief that ordinary or “everyday” people, inarticulate though they may be, and with all their baggage of messy personal lives, are truly compelling public figures. Their ordinariness, often more alleged than real, gives the impression of honesty. Not slick, and therefore honest, is the impression garnered by a great swath of the public.
The messy personal baggage is part of the package. Such figures often have issues with drugs or drinking. Who doesn’t? Thus, acceptance of the addictions and indulgences is part of the package of accepting such people as authentic. Somehow, a portion of the population is more trusting of a trainwreck individual than a smooth-talking intellectual who knows a lot about policy.
Me, I’m not dismissive of this twist in the public perception of politicians and powerful people. It’s a calibrated, calculated response to the remoteness of so many of the powerful. Besides, just watch Mom and you see deft addiction humour about people in recovery. There are candid, funny jokes about the experience of being addicted or high or wasted. Is it trivializing the issue? To a lot of people, it isn’t. It’s just honest and funny. Like Rob Ford.
Mom isn’t a happy show. But that’s just me. I do note that Lorre’s description includes saying it’s about “… fixing the mistakes you’ve made in the past, restoring relationships, getting another start.” And I hear that echoed in what has been said at City Hall in Toronto recently. See, television explains everything.
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