The Thursday Night Football experiment is over for now, with games now exclusively on the NFL Network while CBS resumes its regular programming, with a few new tweaks. Most notable is the move from Mondays of the underrated Mom, nestled at 8:30/7:30c between producer Chuck Lorre's higher-profile hits, the dominant The Big Bang Theory at 8/7c and the fading Two and a Half Men, finally entering its final season, at 9/8c.
For those mothers of misfortune at the heart of Mom, played with fearless verve by Anna Faris and Emmy-winner Allison Janney, this stroke of scheduling good luck is never reflected in the show's own hard-knocks trajectory, as recovering addicts Christy (Faris) and Bonnie (Janney) reel from the realization that their financial woes could soon make them homeless. "You need to get cuter," Bonnie advises her grandson Roscoe (Blake Garrett Rosenthal), in the snarky hope that someone will take sympathy and give them a break. Fat chance.
Because Mom, for all of its pungently crude and rough humor (reminiscent of classics like Roseanne and Grace Under Fire), isn't about easy solutions or saccharine happy endings. We're reminded of that when Christy's daughter Violet (Sadie Calvano) sulks upon getting an update in the mail from the adoptive parents of the daughter she tearfully gave away at the end of last season. Regrets? They all have a few. And it looks like it's only going to get tougher for this family — which you'd think would mean it's maybe not the best time for Christy to take on a new project, as AA sponsor for Jill (My Name Is Earl's Jaime Pressly), whose twitchy arrival at the local meeting prompts this observation: "You kind of look like you just got tasered." Takes one to know one.
But even if they're barely keeping hope alive through mordant laughter, Mom is oddly uplifting in its portrayal of scrappy survival against the economic odds. Here's hoping CBS's benevolence in moving the show into a more visible time period will reap rewards.
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THE BLARING OF THE GREEN: The night's other big move involves shuffling the ear-splitting nonsense of The Millers off to Monday and introducing another incredibly loud family, The McCarthys (9:30/8:30c) from Boston. Their primary traits include being Irish, everyone living within screaming distance of each other (shades of Everybody Loves Raymond), being Irish, loving sports, and being Irish. The beige-sheep outlier of the family is youngest son Ronny, who's openly gay and would rather watch The Good Wife with clingy mom Marjorie (Laurie Metcalf) than "the football" with the guys. Played with smooth, affable irony by Tyler Ritter (yet another talented offspring of the late John Ritter), Ronny is the lucky charm in this otherwise painfully broad attack of high-decibel blarney.
His rapport with Marjorie, who shifts into manipulative drama-queen overdrive when she learns Ronny may take a new job in Rhode Island, is about the only thing that could set any eyes to smiling, Irish or otherwise. Ronny's reaction to the family setting up a gay bar in their living room to win him over pretty much describes The McCarthys as a whole: "Sweet and awkward and at times offensive." The rest of the boisterous clan includes Joey McIntire as Gerard, the sports-crazed twin of the hulkier, dumber, also sports-obsessed Sean (Jimmy Dunn), Kelen Coleman as only daughter Jackie, and Rescue Me's Jack McGee as the gruff basketball-coaching dad. The family's affectionately teasing acceptance of Ronny's sexual orientation almost makes up for the fact that everyone seems to take too much to heart brother Gerard's philosophy of how to get things done: "Volume and repetition."
THE HOLMES-FRONT: Can this (working) relationship be saved? That's the nagging question through the first episodes of CBS's always enjoyable Elementary (10/9c), which picks up the third season some eight months after Sherlock's (Jonny Lee Miller) abrupt departure to London, instantly establishing sidekick-turned-fulltime investigator Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) as the NYPD's current favorite crime consultant. "I'm really good at finding things," she says, quite proudly, and that even includes a little romance on the side.
Hard to blame her for being less than enthused when her former mentor suddenly arrives, after "creative differences" (so what else is new) with MI6, just as she's about to tackle a deliciously puzzling "locked-door" mystery set in an elevator. Genuine contrition doesn't come naturally to the prickly, arrogant Sherlock, who must make peace with the understandably aloof Watson before the police brass will let him rejoin the game. Exacerbating the estrangement is the presence of Sherlock's abrasive and mysterious new protégée from across the pond, Kitty (the vividly spunky Ophelia Lovibond), whose first encounter with Watson is promising only if baton-wielding catfights are your idea of a good time. Their slow, tentative bonding over the next few episodes is one of the most intriguing elements of Elementary's unusual and potentially risky new direction.