The broadcast networks have almost 30 shows debuting this fall, including a futuristic tale from the Fringe team, new sitcoms from Michael J. Fox and Sean Hayes, and a trip down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. To help you prep for it all, TVLine is offering First Impressions of the not-for-review pilots.
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THE SHOW | CBS’ Mom (Mondays at 9:30/8:30c; premieres Sept. 23)
THE COMPETITION | NBC’s The Voice, ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, ESPN’s Monday Night Football, Fox’s Sleepy Hollow and The CW’s Beauty and the Beast
THE CAST | Anna Faris (The House Bunny), Allison Janney (The West Wing), Nate Corddry (Studio 60), French Stewart (3rd Rock from the Sun), Sadie Calvano (Melissa & Joey), Matt Jones (NCIS) and others
THE SET-UP | In this latest Chuck Lorre production, Faris is Christy, a four months-sober single mom tempted to pitch herself right off the wagon when her mother Bonnie (Janney), herself a recovering alcoholic/substance abuser, resurfaces after an estrangement. Corddry costars as Christy’s restaurant boss/boyfriend, Stewart’s a pugnacious chef, Calvano is Christy’s sexually active 16-year-old daughter Violet and Jones plays Baxter, the stoner/slacker father of Christy’s adolescent son.
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THE FIRST IMPRESSION | Two things I didn’t like about this pilot: The cold open — in which Faris ugly-sobs for what feels like 10 straight minutes — got old quick, and Janney doesn’t show up until about halfway in. But once mom and daughter do reunite and the barb-filled banter starts flying, the show finds a certain footing. The scenes set at home (where Christy tries to tame Violet and her doofus beau while struggling to make peace with her own mother) do not connect with those at the workplace (a restaurant that reads as especially artificial for a sitcom). Prediction: Bonnie gets hired as the eatery’s hostess by Episode 4. As a Lorre show, all the bawdy boxes get checked, including vivid sex jokes and rather specific drug humor — with a small boy reveling in beating a videogame’s hooker with a bat for good measure.
When not crying, Faris is fun and flinty as the middle layer of a dysfunctional family sandwich, while Janney — a four-time Emmy winner in Sorkinland — is obviously have a ball letting her hair and morals down, co-opting our nostalgic love for C.J. Cregg to help forgive Bonnie’s many, many trespasses.
RELATED | More Fall TV First Impressions: ABC’s Wonderland, NBC’s The Blacklist, The CW’s Reign, ABC’s Trophy Wife,Fox’s Sleepy Hollow, CBS’ Hostages, NBC’s Ironside, ABC’s Super Fun Night, The CW’s The Tomorrow People, Fox’s Almost Human, CBS’ The Crazy Ones
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | Spelling Mike & Molly for the foreseeable future, Mom is perhaps a better companion show for 2 Broke Girls (right down to their food service professions!). As such, it should tee up the 10 o’clock hour as well, if not marginally better, than its predecessor — which is important, since CBS is putting much promotional muscle behind its 13-episode thriller Hostages.