8:30am PT by Marisa Roffman
'Mom' Co-Creator on Bonnie's Relapse, "Emotional" Finale
For the women of Mom, it's been a tough year.
Season two started with the women being evicted, after Christy (Anna Faris) gambled away the family's rent money. Then, after a few moments of happiness, Bonnie's (Allison Janney) on-again love (and Christy's father), Alvin (Kevin Pollak), died. And now, after a recent accident led to an injured Bonnie to take prescription medication, she relapsed, and has been struggling since.
And yet, somehow through all of that, the CBS comedy has managed to remain funny.
Mom co-creator Gemma Baker spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about finding the humor in pain, the decision to have Bonnie relapse, the shift in the show's focus and what to expect from Thursday's season two finale.
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How would you describe the season finale?
It's a very emotional episode for Christy and Bonnie, where the consequences of their behavior catches up with them. Some of what we've been seeing does get resolved. Sometimes it's hard on this show, because anything you say sounds heavy. (Laughs.)
What has the balance been like trying to juggle the real situations the characters find themselves in with the reality of being a multicam, network comedy? Has there been a storyline where the network and/or studio worried it was getting too dark?
The network and studio have been so supportive; there's never been any pushback. Sometimes when I'm talking about the show, or episode — even when we were first doing the pilot — I find myself explaining to a friend or someone I meet what the show's about or what an episode is going to be about, and it sounds like I'm describing a drama. I'm proud of the way we're able to deal with serious issues and find humor at the same time. I think sometimes people are surprised by that, but that really is how life is. I know for me, the things I've gone through that are painful and serious, the only way I'm able to cope is to find humor in it somewhere.
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With season one, there was a clear arc to where the show was going with Violet's (Sadie Calvano) pregnancy. Did the writers know from the start that this season was leading to Bonnie relapsing?
It didn't get decided way in advance; we don't plan way in advance. The idea of a big event happening for Christy and Bonnie, and the idea came about that what if there was an accident? The idea came up of what if Bonnie had to take prescription medicine, because that can be such a gray area. What would happen if after she had just gone through all this emotional pain, she was in physical pain, and she was taking medication she was prescribed, what might happen if that happened to her in that situation? And then we went from there, and it became this much bigger story.
In the writers room, was it always Bonnie who would be given the relapse story? Or was there ever talk about having Christy be the one to relapse?
It was always Bonnie.
This season, there has been less of a focus on Christy's kids and job, while attention has moved more to the support group. Was that a change the writers set out to make?
It all has happened organically. You go in the direction of what's working. It was never a conversation of shifting the show; you're just writing for characters, and you love doing it and it's working, so you keep doing it more, and you see things have shifted a little. (Laughs.) But it wasn't a conscious effort to shift.
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As you look back at the season, which storyline has gotten the most passionate reaction? And were you surprised by it?
People were really impacted by Alvin dying. I wasn't surprised, because Kevin Pollak did such an incredible job. He was so beloved. It was a huge loss. It is how death is when you have something that comes out of nowhere. That was a character that people loved, and they missed him … and we do miss him. The night that episode aired, my mother-in-law, I called her to arrange when I was picking up my son, and she had seen the promo for the episode that was airing that night, and she said, "You have to tell me: is the dad going to die? And is there anything you can do?" (Laughs.) I was like, "It's already aired in New York, I can't change that!" She was really upset, and I think that was a lot of people's reactions.
Which is certainly a good sign.
I think that's what keeps the show relatable. First of all, I think [Mom co-creator] Chuck [Lorre] is so brave that he takes risks like that, and it's one of the many thing I admire about him. I thought it was an incredibly bold move to do that. And it's what keeps our characters going through those things people can relate to. I think, unfortunately, most people can relate to suddenly losing someone they love. That we get to address death on a comedy is an honor. It was very important to us, to deal with something that heavy with humor. It was a challenge to write to that and what happens next. You can't do an episode like that and have the next week be super light. We owed it to the viewers and the characters to continue to process that for a little while.
Mom's season finale airs Thursday at 9 p.m. on CBS. Stay tuned to The Live Feed for more coverage after the episode.