With her floppy hat and flapping gums, Jackie "Moms" Mabley is mostly remembered these days for her outrageous appearances on late-'60s and '70s-era variety and talk shows, as mainstream as Ed Sullivan and as of-the-moment as the Smothers Brothers, performing racy and politically barbed stand-up routines whose sting was couched in a dirty-old-lady's guise.
Among those influenced by Mabley was Whoopi Goldberg, who performed an homage to the comedian early in her own career. In the HBO documentary Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley (Monday, 9/8c), the View personality directs and participates in this tribute to the pioneering comic's life and legacy, with TV clips and audio excerpts (enhanced with crude animation) from her many comedy albums, which hold up surprisingly well. A rich roster of admiring celebrities weighs in, including Bill Cosby, Joan Rivers, Eddie Murphy and Harry Belafonte, the latter especially eloquent in describing how this Apollo and vaudeville legend channeled the pain of the civil-rights movement into her comedy without sacrificing her individuality and dignity. (You won't soon forget her passionate rendition of "Abraham, Martin & John," which silences a funky crowd of partiers on a vintage episode of Playboy After Dark.)
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MOMMA (AND MOLLY) MIA: On a considerably less legendary, though still funny scale, CBS's Mom provides another great showcase for Allison Janney — about whom I raved on Friday for her poignant work in Showtime's Masters of Sex. She goes for pathos again in this week's episode of the Chuck Lorre comedy (9:30/8:30c), as Bonnie hits the skids and falls off the wagon — so much for two years of sobriety — after losing her job. As she says at her AA meeting: "It's not my fault. Who knew I was going to live this long?" Daughter Christy (Anna Faris) is sympathetic only so far to this woman who has disappointed her for so much of her life, and when she puts Bonnie in the supervision of AA pals Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy) and Regina (Octavia Spencer), neither of whom are Bonnie boosters, matters go over-the-top before you can say, "I'll drink to that" (or not).
Filling out an hour block of Chuck Lorre comedy, Mike & Molly (9/8c) presents its funniest episode of the season to date, with Melissa McCarthy milking every bit of slapstick mayhem out of Molly's squeamish visit to sister Victoria's funeral-parlor work environment, more research for her writing career. Back home, Mike (Billy Gardell) engages in some classic spousal sitcom behavior as he snoops onto his wife's laptop against her wishes — "I yam a bad puddytat" — and discovers that Molly's writing has gone in a surprisingly blue direction. Here he is trying to decipher her prose: "Girth I know, turgid I'm not so sure about."
WHO'S ON FIRST: This is a banner week for Doctor Who fans, who may as well just keep the TV on BBC America, which is celebrating the cult fantasy show's 50th anniversary all week. It starts early, with a daylong marathon of The Doctors Revisited documentaries (starting at 9 am/8c) reliving highlights of the first 10 Doctors, leading into two prime-time specials: Doctor Who: Tales From the TARDIS (9/8c), featuring actors and producers sharing their favorite stories and memories; and The Science of Doctor Who (10/9c), in which rock star/physicist Professor Brian Cox leads a discussion of the physics behind the Doctor's whimsical time-travel adventures. (Later this week, I'll be touting Friday's premiere of the delightful TV-movie An Adventure in Space and Time, which dramatizes the show's creation back in 1963.)
THE MONDAY GUIDE: Fist bumps provided significant moments in Sunday's episodes of The Walking Dead and The Good Wife, and Ichabod Crane is introduced to the concept ("Makes no sense," he mutters) by partner Abbie in a pivotal episode of Fox's Sleepy Hollow (9/8c), in which the imprisoned Headless Horseman is confronted by a team comprised of (in skeptical Capt. Irving's words) "a dead guy [John Cho as necromancer Andy Brooks], mental patient [Lyndie Greenwood as Abbie's newly freed sister Jenny] and a time traveler from the Revolution [Tom Mison's dashing Ichabod]." They could do worse. The plot thickens, and so does the mythology, with murderous Hessians, Egyptian hieroglyphics and a Druidic scripture figuring into the madness. And coming soon to a T-shirt near you, the Horseman's proclamation: "Death will not be silenced." ... In the second (unpreviewed) episode of Fox's Almost Human (8/7c), the human/android buddy-cop team pursues a lead that takes them into the world of sexbots, aka Intimate Robot Companions (IRCs). ... Maksim Chmerkovskiy returns — as a guest judge — to ABC's Dancing With the Stars (8/7c), which has said goodbye to too many good dancers this season to hold my interest any longer. (Good luck to Amber and Corbin.) ... Former Dancing participant Gilles Marini begins a recurring role on CBS's 2 Broke Girls (8:30/7:30c) as a master baker whom Max hopes to impress as she applies at the Manhattan School of Pastry. 24's Mary Lynn Rajskub also guests as the school's neurotic receptionist. ... Another 24 alum, Annie Wersching, guests on ABC's Castle (10/9c) as a cosmetic surgeon who factors into a particularly troubling murder case — unsettling because the victim is a dead ringer for medical examiner Lanie (Tamala Jones). ... If you're looking for The Blacklist, you'll have to wait a week. Greedy NBC is devoting the entire prime-time lineup to The Voice, with an hour recap at 8/7c, followed by the Top 10 performing live for America's vote at 9/8c.
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