What's Worth Watching: Mom, The Big Bang Theory, Scandal and more for Thursday, May 12

Matt Roush
Mom. Anna Faris, Linda Lavin
Monty Brinton/CBS

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel sponsored by the SAG/AFTRA Foundation, spotlighting several of the outstanding guest stars who appeared on CBS’s Mom this season. From the season opener: June Squibb (as an elderly woman hilariously mistaken for Bonnie’s mother, who turned out actually to be Ellen Burstyn, unfortunately unavailable for this panel); from February, the same night Squibb returned to the Chuck Lorre universe to play Sheldon’s Meemaw on The Big Bang Theory: Rosie O’Donnell, as one of the more unexpected exes from Bonnie’s past; and from January: sitcom legend Linda Lavin (Alice) as Phyllis, who first came to dinner as the wry Jewish mother of Gregory (David Krumholtz), Violet’s (Sadie Calvano) fiancé. Her best line upon first meeting this caustic family: “Can you imagine what they were like when they drank?”

The great news is that Lavin is back this week (9/8c). (Sample wisecrack regarding Allison Janney’s Bonnie: “You really don’t have a second gear, do you?”) The not-so-great news is that Violet and Gregory have split, but why things fell apart depends on who’s telling the story. Can the moms believe Violet, or is she heading down the same destructive path as her barely recovering mom and grandma? It’s unclear if Phyllis’s two cents will provide any comfort: “You know when it’s easy being a mother? When you’re dead.” (If you think the role feels tailor-made for Lavin, you’re right. She revealed at the panel that the role was designed for her by Marco Pennette, a co-executive producer who created one of her previous sitcoms, the short-lived Conrad Bloom from 1998.)

More terrific guest stars populate the ninth-season finale of CBS’s The Big Bang Theory (8/7c), where Judd Hirsch makes his first appearance as Leonard’s (Johnny Galecki) dad, Alfred, jousting with his ex-wife Beverly (The Good Wife’s Christine Baranski). Joining the fun is Roseanne’s Laurie Metcalf, returning as devout Mary, mother of Sheldon (Jim Parson). This sounds like a parent trap we can’t afford to miss.

The night’s other big-ticket item is the season finale of ABC’s Scandal (9/8c), which promises yet more twisty upheaval in the presidential race. Because such a thing could never happen in real life.