Allison Janney and Anna Faris
Chuck Lorre has a gift for making even the most unsympathetic characters seem relatable, whether it's Charlie Sheen's manwhore on Two and a Half Men or a bunch of social misfits on The Big Bang Theory. The prolific executive producer will add "recovering alcoholic" to that list with a new CBS comedy Mom.
Christy, a newly sober single mom (Anna Faris), tries to pull her life together in Napa Valley, where her mother Bonnie (The West Wing's Allison Janney) continues to be the source of all her problems. Lorre had attempted to tell a similar story of struggle with past series Grace Under Fire and Cybill, both of which he left after clashing with their leading ladies.
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"This is a story that's very meaningful to me because it's about starting your life over again and repairing the damage you've done — nothing to do with me personally — fixing the mistakes of the past and getting another start," Lorre said at the Television Critics Association fall TV previews on Monday. "[It's] very much a story of Los Angeles, though it's not set there, but this is a city of second chances."
Though Christy is a recovering alcoholic, the producers insist that this isn't just a show about addiction. "It's about a character who made some mistakes in her life and is really trying to get better," creator Gemma Baker said. "Because she's trying to get better, we can forgive a lot of her past. I think Anna is so lovable, so it's really easy to root for her."
"I wasn't necessarily ready to get back to work yet," said Faris, who gave birth to son Jack in August 2012. Her husband, Parks and Recreation's Chris Pratt, saw the Mom pilot script and pestered her after reading just one page. "He said, 'Whatever you're doing, put it down. This is you,'" she recalled.
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"She's so dimensional, she's a mess, which is very much like me," Faris continued. "I've played a lot of one-dimensional characters in my career that weren't so bright ... [which] is actually really difficult because you're not dealing with somebody you'd ever really know."
Faris may find her new job rewarding, especially with an impressive duo of guest stars already on the way — and more likely to come. Justin Long has been tapped to play a love interest for her character. "Poor bastard doesn't know what he's in for, but he's going to be her first shot at a meaningful relationship," Lorre said. Meanwhile, Oscar winner Octavia Spencer will be "playing a woman who, it turns out, has bigger problems than Christy, so Christy gets perspective."
And even though this marks Lorre's fourth series currently on the air, he isn't patting himself on the back just yet. When a reporter refers to the "Chuck Lorre comedy empire" (he also created Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory and Mike & Molly), he demurs. "Empires are always overrun and defeated," he said, noting that he'll be devoting most of his time to Mom for now. "Obviously this is a brand new baby; it requires a great deal of love and care."
Mom premieres Monday, Sept. 23 at 9:30/8:30c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)