What’s Worth Watching: ‘Mom’ on CBS for Thursday, November 5

Sonja Flemming/CBS
"Terrorists and Gingerbread" -- Coverage of the CBS series MOM, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Mom, “Terrorists and Gingerbread,” Thursday, Nov 5, 9/8c, CBS

No show laughs through its pain quite as effectively as Mom, entering its third season of tough love and rocky recovery with equal measures of pathos and laugh-out-loud audacity. Not since the finer days of Roseanne has a domestic comedy allowed itself to be this emotionally raw, yet allowing for pungent hilarity, which is very much the case in the season opener, another showcase for back-to-back Emmy winner Allison Janney. Don’t be surprised if episodes like this make her a front-runner for a third win in a row.

The situation is fraught with angst as Bonnie (Janney) initially rejects the idea of meeting her long-absent mother Shirley (Ellen Burstyn), who Bonnie resents for putting her in foster care at 4 years old. When advised that getting to know Shirley after all these years might help resolve some of her anger issues, Bonnie delivers a classic Mom wisecrack: “Oh please, who am I if I heal?”

To her credit, the salty Burstyn doesn’t try to sweeten her portrayal of Shirley, a former cocktail waitress whose hard-knock life rivals that of her substance-abusing daughter and granddaughter. “You’re a babbler, huh?” she barks at Christy (Anna Faris), who lays the groundwork for the uneasy and wrenching reunion to come. When Bonnie and Shirley do finally meet, there are no easy hugs, no swift reconciliation. There are occasional punch lines, but they tend to leave a welt. Mom is honest and honestly funny, and off to a great start.