“Mom” is a critically acclaimed comedy with a hopeful message about recovery that’s thriving creatively in its eighth season. Then, why is it ending now?
“That’s a wonderful question. It was not something we wanted,” executive producer Chuck Lorre says in advance of the CBS sitcom’s series finale on Thursday (9 EDT/PDT).
Lorre says he was surprised and disappointed when he learned in February that “Mom,” which centers on a group of friends who support each other in recovery from addiction, would end this spring, a feeling shared by cast members on social media. He says he was told the series had become too expensive, given the rising costs – including salaries – of a long-running popular comedy, but that he doesn’t know the specific reasons behind a decision that would have been discussed by CBS and Warner Bros. Television, the producing studio.
The friends from CBS' 'Mom' – Tammy (Kristen Johnston), left, Jill (Jaime Pressly), Bonnie (Allison Janney), Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy) and Wendy (Beth Hall) – seem to do pretty much everything together, including learning the results of Jill's pregnancy test in the May 6 episode. She's going to have a baby! (Photo: Michael Yarish, CBS)
“It was heartbreaking, because I think everyone involved felt that there were so many more stories to tell, that we had a perfect ensemble and a show that, as much as it’s funny, was meaningful,” he says.
While grounded in humor and featuring the kind of biting personal insults common to many friendships, “Mom” also delved into serious territory, including the challenges and setbacks for those dealing with addiction.
Despite his sadness at the show ending, Lorre appreciates having the chance to work with the ensemble headed by Oscar-winner Allison Janney and featuring Mimi Kennedy, Jaime Pressly, Beth Hall, Kristen Johnston and William Fichtner, and fellow executive producers Gemma Baker, Nick Bakay and Warren Bell.
“We have to stay grateful for the fact that we did eight years together and it was a great experience,” he says.
“Mom” made a big adjustment in Season 8 with the departure of one of its main stars, Anna Faris. She played Christy, the daughter of Janney’s Bonnie and one of the Northern California women who bonded in a 12-step group. Faris’ character was written out positively, with Christy heading to law school in Washington, D.C.
Bonnie (Allison Janney), left, and Christy (Anna Faris) were the central mother-daughter duo for seven seasons on CBS' "Mom." Faris left the show before the eighth and final season. (Photo: Darren Michaels/Warner Bros.)
“It was a formidable undertaking to map a road forward without the co-star of the show. But when we were told Anna wasn’t coming back, I think we all recognized that we were gifted with this brilliant ensemble and there was more than enough in that dynamic to carry the series forward,” he says.
“Mom” went through a major evolution over its run. It started with Christy, early in addiction recovery, juggling restaurant work and raising two children as a single mother. Over time, the focus shifted to Christy, Bonnie and their friends in recovery – Marjorie (Kennedy), Jill (Pressly), Wendy (Hall) and Tammy (Johnston) – along with Bonnie’s eventual husband, Adam (Fichtner).
“It became apparent as we were writing the show that that ensemble, a life raft filled with women helping one another stay out of the ocean, was the series,” he says. “Year to year, the beating heart of the series was this group of women holding each other up.”
"Mom" executive producer Chuck Lorre, left, talks to star Allison Janney, sitting, during a break in the filming of a Season 1 episode of the critically acclaimed CBS sitcom. (Photo: Monty Brinton, CBS)
Lorre won’t rank the many series in his comedy empire, including current entries “Young Sheldon,” “Bob Hearts Abishola,” “B Positive” and “United States of Al” on CBS and “The Kominsky Method” on Netflix, but “Mom” holds a special spot. (“Sheldon” and “Bob” return in the fall and the final season of “Kominsky” premieres May 28. Lorre says he hasn’t heard whether “Positive” or “Al” are being renewed, with decisions due soon.)
“When we first conceived of doing ‘Mom,’ the purpose was to communicate hope, that recovery is possible, that recovery can be joyous and filled with friendship and laughter and is not a grim, fingernail-biting exercise,” he says.
Asked if “Mom” writers had enough time to give Bonnie (Janney) and friends the proper goodbye, Lorre says he can’t answer.
Adam (William Fichtner), sitting up, and Bonnie (Allison Janney), have faced plenty of challenges in their relationship and marriage, but they're still going strong as CBS' "Mom" moves toward its May 13 conclusion. (Photo: Michael Yarish, Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc.)
“We had the time that we had, sufficient or not,” he says. “I was hoping we could find some way to have closure, particularly for Bonnie. But I really liked the idea that the end of the series is not the end of the story. The story of people living in recovery continues.”
As “Mom” ends and Lorre’s other shows reach their season or series finales, he takes pride in his team being able to produce 91 episodes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a really crazy winter but most importantly, no one got seriously ill and no one was hospitalized to my knowledge. We have to be grateful for that,” he says. “We just made television shows as best we could under the circumstances.”
Melanie Lynskey, left, who starred in Chuck Lorre's "Two and a Half Men," joins Allison Janney, Jaime Pressly and Kristen Johnston for the May 13 series finale of CBS' "Mom." (Photo: Michael Yarish, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
Unfortunately, “Mom” was one of the Lorre sitcoms that could not shoot in front of its usual studio audience due to COVID gathering restrictions. He hopes audiences can eventually return.
“The excitement and energy of working in front of a live studio audience was taken away from us. It was never an option to bring in 200 people and have them watch a show get made,” he says. “That’s part of the fun, putting up a show on Friday night in front of an audience. It’s exciting, it’s scary, it’s a bit of a tightrope. Things don’t always work out the way you want. The energy for those live performances is really wonderful. That’s going to be a big reason to celebrate going forward, bringing the audiences back.”
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