In a world where laptops take the place of television sets and cellphone companies produce well-founded and popular entertainment (yes, really, just look at AT&T), it is easy to forget that quality television is still available on the classic broadcast networks we all used to love so dearly.
Entering its fifth season, “Mom” continues to stay true to its foundation, delivering sharp, if not sometimes slapstick, comedy while also confronting difficult questions about relationships, addiction and moving forward after hitting rock bottom. The fourth season ended with Christy (Anna Faris, “The Emoji Movie”) representing her mother Bonnie (Allison Janney, “Sun Dogs”) after she was tracked down by the IRS for $18,000 worth of unpaid taxes. Now in the fifth season opener, Christy is studying for the LSATs as her mother struggles with a fear of commitment after her boyfriend, Adam (William Fichtner, “Hot Summer Nights”), proposes.
Within just this episode, both main and secondary characters demonstrate the difficulty of putting your life back together after a misstep or two. Bonnie wonders if she’ll be able to handle a marriage the way she has learned to handle her alcoholism. Christy prepares for law school after years of wrestling self-doubt and addiction. Her friend, Natasha (Missi Pyle, “Highly Functional”), looks for a job so she can get her child out of foster care, even though the only thing she’s ever done for money is strip and sell drugs. These are storylines that you wouldn’t expect to go hand-in-hand with a laughing studio audience and jokes about G-spots, but after five seasons, “Mom”’s methods continue to be effective.
One particular stand-out moment in the premiere was when Adam first proposed to Bonnie. In a span of thirty seconds, you watch Bonnie spiral from complete joy to utter panic, ultimately sprinting away from her lover. In between the comedic banter and a joke about Bonnie’s inability to make meatloaf, the classic housewife dish, viewers are shown a woman still facing the mistakes of her past and grappling with the idea that she may not be good enough to truly be loved.
It is work that is clearly Emmy-worthy, and in fact the show has won quite a few of the golden statues, but this year something changed. Back in May, the producers and stars of “Mom” announced that they would be donating the show’s $250,000 Emmy campaign budget to Planned Parenthood. Allison Janney and series co-creator Chuck Lorre announced the effort amid President Trump and the Republican’s plan to push the American Health Care Act through Congress, a bill which would have detrimental effects on the work of the women’s health organization.
The move was reminiscent of a similar act by the United Talent Agency, which canceled its traditional Oscar party in February to protest Trump’s views and policy on immigration. While deeply political in nature, both “Mom”’s donation and UTA’s cancellation send a clear message not just to our elected officials but to the entertainment industry as a whole: It has a responsibility to speak up against injustice.
Movies, music, television shows and everything else we consume through screens and earbuds are meant to serve as distractions from reality. But in a culture where so many Americans and others worldwide are feeling targeted and unsafe, to ignore the problem is to submit to it. There are things in this world more important than praise and recognition, and it’s about time more people in entertainment learn that. If a television show wants to remain relevant and beloved, the people involved in making it should be ensuring their viewers that they care about them and are willing to use their platform to fight for them.
“Mom” has fallen on the good side of the fight, not just exploiting the story of a young mother for entertainment, but actually providing funds to an organization that will fight for that young mother once the TV is turned off. It’s a shame that we must rely on pop culture to act in the humane way our president fails to, but as group after group is marginalized by the people this country has put into power, somebody has to start making sacrifices so that we as a society can get better. And who better for that job than a mom?