On this day most readily associated with the Wearing of the Green, consider a TV industry green with envy at the success of Chuck Lorre's comedy empire on CBS, which renewed all of his current series last week, led by the terrific and tremendously popular The Big Bang Theory (a powerhouse providing a clout that helps explain why the beyond-past-its-prime Two and a Half Men also made the cut). Lorre's two Monday comedies, anchored by strong female performances, are also back next season — and that's especially good news for fans (including me) of the underperforming, underrated Mom, with its sensational mother-daughter tag team of Allison Janney and Anna Faris as Bonnie and Christy, two generations of recovering addicts raising a family against powerful odds.
This week's episode (9:30/8:30c) frames its plentiful and pungent laughs against a most unfunny situation: a road trip with a final destination of prison, where the moms' new pal Regina (Octavia Spencer, terrific) is heading after being convicted of embezzling $3 million. "I always thought it would be you I'd be dropping off," Christy snarks to Bonnie. Along for the ride: their dour companion in recovery Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy, always welcome), who's battling breast cancer. Sounds like a downer, but the hard-knocks comedy of Mom is anything but, even as its characters choke back tears amid the guffaws.
Mike & Molly (9/8c) is a much lighter affair — ironically, given the heft of its title characters — welcoming a powerhouse guest star in Kathy Bates as the worldly wise childhood pal of Molly's nemesis/mother-in-law Peggy (Rondi Reed). "Being with you is like taking a master class in awesome," gushes Molly (Melissa McCarthy) as she hero-worships this bawdy, well-traveled journalist, tagging along despite inciting Peggy's crabby jealousy. "Make good choices," Mike (Billy Gardell) pleads to his wife. But does she listen? If she did, there'd be no show.
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REALITY CHECK: ABC's Dancing With the Stars returns (8/7c) with a new sidekick (Erin Andrews) for Tom Bergeron and a new band, but whether this season catches fire depends as usual on the casting, and the most intriguing aspect of this season's mixed bag of celebs involves Olympic ice dancing champions Charlie White and Meryl Davis competing against each other, and Paralympic double-amputee snowboarder Amy Purdy teaming with pro fave Derek Hough as a potentially formidable duo. The noisiest twist to be instituted this cycle: "The Switch Up," during which at some point of the season every couple will be split up, as viewers vote and decide who will dance with whom. Whether this intensifies the competition or merely annoys the hardcore fan remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, NBC's The Voice (8/7c) enters the Battle Round phase, with the potential of judges stealing the losing singer for his or her team. Joining the coaches for this phase: Aloe Blacc for Team Adam, The Band Perry for Team Blake, Jill Scott for Team Usher, and Miranda Lambert moonlighting from husband Blake Shelton to advise Team Shakira.
PSYCHO CORNER: In the Monday night battle between Fox's The Following (9/8c) and A&E's Bates Motel (now back at 10/9c), I'm leaning towards the more entertaining creepshow featuring Norma and Norman these days. New to the twisted town of White Pine Bay: Alias's Michael Vartan as an ally in Norma's desperate attempt to stop the highway bypass, and much less welcome, Kenny Johnson as her sketchy brother. Over at The Following, Psycho Joe Carroll continues to exert his influence over the Korban cult, while the hapless heroes hope to unearth the FBI mole.
Both shows are likely to be dwarfed by NBC's The Blacklist (10/9c), reeling from the hardly-unexpected reveal that there's more to Liz's husband Tom (Ryan Eggold) than a dutiful spouse. This week's master villain: crime lord Mako Tanida (Hoon Lee), a former associate of Red's who's seeking revenge after escaping from prison.
THE MONDAY GUIDE: As much of the East Coast prepares for another late-winter blast of annoyance on St. Patrick's Day, the timing is good for The Weather Channel to launch its ambitious new three-hour morning show AMHQ With Sam Champion — stands for "America's Morning Headquarters," and no, it's not quite as catchy as GMA — at 7 am/6c. That's an awful lot of weather, but that's what many people want before they head outside for the day. ... Logo celebrates "St. Patsy's Day" with a six-hour Absolutely Fabulous marathon starting at 10 am/9c. ... Synergy alert: To celebrate the NCAA women's basketball Final Four coming to Nashville in April, Nashville's Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere will appear from the Grand Ole Opry stage to christen ESPN's coverage of the 64-team bracket announcement (7/6c). ... Comedy Central's rising stars Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele discuss their partnership with David Steinberg on Showtime's Inside Comedy (11/10c). Veteran producer/actor Garry Marshall also appears to reflect on his career in TV and movies. ... Maria Shriver produces the sobering HBO documentary Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life & Times of Katrina Gilbert (9/8c), a case study of a Chattanooga single mother struggling to stay afloat in an unforgiving economy. For the next week, this special report will be available for free on hbo.com, ShriverReport.org and on YouTube.