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The Untold Truth Of CBS' Mom

Led by the talented duo Anna Faris and Allison Janney, "Mom" is a beloved comedy that lasted a remarkable eight seasons on CBS. The show was created by Chuck Lorre, the master creator of mega-hits like "Two and a Half Men" and "The Big Bang Theory." With "Mom," Lorre broke a lot of new ground for a sitcom. It wasn't a predictable and safe network comedy. From the title alone, one would expect a show about a mother who's a real piece of work, but you can't judge a book by its cover, and "Mom" was a richer and more complex sitcom than many initially thought.

"Mom" took a realistic look at addiction and recovery, and it tackled a lot of tough subjects during its run. "This is not the first half-hour comedy that looks at a serious subject, but that's what's different for Chuck, and I think he's proud of that," Janney told IndieWire. "It feels like a very grown-up show for him. I had no idea that we were going to be going to the places that we've gotten to go with 'Mom.'" Despite its popularity, there's a lot that most people don't know about "Mom." Read on for the untold truth of the show.

Chuck Lorre's long road to success

If you want to make it in show business and you're still swimming against the tide, don't lose heart. Chuck Lorre, the creator of "Mom," was broke and struggling before he finally had a professional breakthrough in his mid-30s. "I was a struggling musician until I was about 35 years old," Lorre told the Lansing State Journal. "I remember vividly what it's like to put 38 cents in the gas tank and drive to my second cousin's house, so they would feed me." One time Lorre got a ticket for making an illegal U-turn, and the $50 fine left him broke. "I broke down and I sobbed because it wiped me out," he said.

Lorre had some success as a songwriter (he co-wrote the super catchy theme for "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," for example) but he was almost 40 when he first tasted success in the realm of comedy writing. He got a job writing for "Roseanne," and that opened doors for him. Eventually he became a show creator and showrunner, and his first big hits include "Grace Under Fire," "Cybill," and "Dharma & Greg." Lorre really hit his stride with two monster hits, "Two and a Half Men" and "The Big Bang Theory," which gave him the cred he needed to push the boat out with "Mom."

Chris Pratt read the script before Anna Faris

Before "Mom," Anna Faris was best known for her roles in comedies like "Just Friends," "The House Bunny," and the "Scary Movie" franchise, in which she played Cindy. As it turns out, Faris was the first actor approached for the CBS series. She told PopSugar that her husband at the time, Marvel star Chris Pratt, read the script for "Mom," and by the time he got to the second page he was convinced that the role was perfect for her. According to Faris, Pratt said: "Honey, whatever you're doing, stop now and read this."

Even though television has come a long way since the days where everything edgy was on HBO, Faris and Janney agreed that "Mom" dealt with risky issues for a network sitcom during a joint interview with Larry King. When King asked Faris if she was ever surprised by the content of the show, she revealed that she was constantly shocked by how far the writers were willing to push it. She said: "On a weekly basis when we get the new scripts I always say, 'Are we sure CBS is okay with this?'"

Allison Janney was a late bloomer

Allison Janney had been acting for quite some time before landing the role of Bonnie on "Mom." Before appearing in the CBS show, she was best known for "The West Wing," in which she played White House press secretary Claudia Jean Cregg. Fans may be surprised to learn that she got her first role as an onscreen actor when she was in her thirties, and she didn't have her breakthrough on "The West Wing" until she was 40.

Janney was born in 1959, and her first featured role was in the film "Who Shot Pat?," which was released in 1989. After that, Janney had a steady stream of movie and TV roles where she played supporting roles and bit parts. Then, in 1999, she landed her regular gig on "The West Wing," which opened many doors for her. She finally had a regular series gig again on "Mom," which launched in 2013. Janney won two Primetime Emmys for her work on the CBS show.

Allison Janney was wearing a wig the entire time

On "Mom," Allison Janney's character Bonnie had a distinctive look, especially her long, flowing hair. It became synonymous with the character, which is quite ironic considering that it's not Janney's real hair. The actor was wearing a wig the whole time — and even her co-workers didn't know about it. Janney's real hair is silver, and when she showed up on set without the wig one day, the producers apparently freaked out.

They said, "What have you done?! How are we gonna... You should have asked us before you did this to your hair," Janney revealed during an appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." Janney told them, "Guys, I've been wearing a wig since Season 1, but nobody knew it." Janney kept the wig as a souvenir when the show came to an end, as well as several pairs of the sweatpants she frequently wore.

Mom is a very personal show for Chuck Lorre

"Mom" is a very personal show for Chuck Lorre because he's been in recovery for years. Lorre got sober when he was 47, so he knows the terrain of addiction and recovery well. "Sobriety is a big part of my life, and it's been that way for almost 13 years," Lorre told TV Guide in 2011, amid his public feud with "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen. "I'm eternally grateful I've been able to find this in my life."

As far as how his personal recovery journey relates to "Mom," Lorre told IndieWire: "Broken people trying to repair their lives, I can relate to that. I know a lot of people that can relate to the comedy in the repair business of a person's life. I think we're all in the process of doing a little mending." Lorre's wife, Arielle, is also in recovery, and has been sober since 2014. In a candid blog post, she revealed that she was in and out of rehab programs for a decade after leaving high school. "After a series of events I ended up in treatment again in 2014 and that time I got sober for good," she wrote.

Two and a Half Men opened the door for Mom

When you're successful in showbusiness and you have a lot of hits on your resume, it can give you the freedom to take on riskier projects. Success can give you the ticket to make the show you've always wanted to make, and the success of "Two and a Half Men" gave Lorre the freedom to make shows like "The Big Bang Theory" and "Mom." As Lorre said (via Inquisitr), "None of this happened without 'Two and a Half Men.' [Without it we] couldn't have gone into CBS and said with a straight face that we want to do a show about physicists."

Lorre has had a great run of hit shows, and his success has allowed him to go to new, riskier areas. With "Two and a Half Men," Lorre could make a lot of risky jokes and get away with it, but he "needed to do something that was challenging, and forced me to step into areas that normally I would have never gone near in terms of comedy," he told IndieWire. "I am at a point in my career where I can take some chances... If you're going to experiment, do something that is meaningful to you. If you fail, you did something meaningful to you." He took a lot of chances on "Mom" when it came to exploring risky topics and areas, but the gamble paid off and the show is now considered to be among his finest.

Mom was inspired by Norman Lear sitcoms

Back in the 1970s, the legendary TV producer Norman Lear was a household name. He created the groundbreaking show "All in the Family," which dealt with topical issues and proved that TV sitcoms could be intelligent and thought provoking. Lear inspired Chuck Lorre to create similar sitcoms that didn't have to be predictable or insulting to the intelligence of the audience. Lorre told Variety that with "Mom," he wanted to tell stories "that are more in the atmosphere in the Norman Lear world, but have fallen out of favor... Stories that are much more in line with what really goes in a person's life."

Lear and Lorre have become friends, and as Lorre continued, Lear "showed me the way. I'd never seen anything like this in comedy growing up." Lear's best-known work, "All in the Family," brought a reality to the sitcom format that had never been seen before. "He basically said, 'Here's real life, here's real people.'" In his prime, Lear broke a lot of ground with television, and made history by tackling tough subjects, much like Lorre has with "Mom." As Lear said (via the Los Angeles Times), "People will tell you you can't do just about anything — mention abortion, have a gay character, write funny about cancer. You do it anyway."

Jodi's overdose was a shock for the cast

It was a big surprise to the viewers of "Mom" that the character of Jodi, played by Emily Osment, had a fatal overdose and died on the show. At that point, Jodi had reached six months of sobriety. However, as Lorre explained to TV Insider, it was decided that Jodi would have an overdose when she was first introduced to the show. As Lorre knew from his own battle with sobriety: "Recovery from addiction is fragile. The one day at a time trope is sadly true; it's a vulnerable state of being that requires vigilance in the community and daily maintenance programming... You can't ignore it."

Lorre knew that Osment was going to go on to another series, "Young & Hungry," but it was still tough to kill off her character. "Believe me, we fell in love with this young lady," he added. The entire cast of "Mom" was heartbroken when they read the script and realized that Jodi was going to die on the show. Not only did they love the character, but they loved Osment as well, who was reportedly a joy to work with. It was a challenge for the writers of "Mom" to figure out how to bring tragedy to the show and then go back to being a comedy. Ultimately, Jodi's death showed that life goes on, no matter how hard it is.

It was hard to do the show during COVID

Laughter is contagious, and the shared experience of laughing can make a comedy even funnier. This is why it was so hard to shoot "Mom" when the COVD-19 pandemic took away its live audience. Gemma Baker, the co-creator of "Mom," told Deadline that not having a live audience was one of the hardest parts of finally ending the series. "An audience was so much a part of what we did and this whole season we missed them," she said. "It really was a huge loss to not have that energy and feedback and laughter. It would have been great if we could have ended the season in front of a live audience."

Veteran TV director James Widdoes, who helmed episodes of "Mom," agreed with that assessment. Speaking to Variety, he called shooting the sitcom during the pandemic a "logistical challenge" like no other. "I had to be working on [following the safety protocols] and at the same time make sure that the creative was getting serviced, as we are used to doing," Widdoes explained. "We didn't want to present a worse version of the show because of COVID." Considering the restraints they were working under, everyone involved in the show did a fantastic job of wrapping it up.

The creators wanted to do more with Christy's character

When Anna Faris announced she was leaving "Mom" after seven seasons, it was a big shock. It's hard for a show to survive when a lead character leaves, but, like "Two and a Half Men," "Mom" was able to hang in there for a little while longer, putting out one more season. However, co-creator Gemma Baker wishes they could have done more with Christy. "There were so many things that we wanted to address that we didn't get a chance to," she told Deadline. "Perhaps, if we had a little more time we would have gotten a chance to address those things. But I do think we addressed the questions that our audience has in the last few episodes."

While fans didn't get to see how Christy does at Georgetown University (she finally achieved her dream of going to law school after getting a full scholarship), Baker said that she would probably have struggles — but she would be okay in the end. "She has in her what it takes to ultimately succeed," Baker said. "I like to think that she also got into a happy and healthy relationship and that she is still a part of her mother's life."

There was a fan petition to save the show

Fans have a lot of power when it comes to saving a show. The original "Star Trek" series was going to be canceled after the second season, but NBC got a deluge of letters from fans begging the network to keep it on, and the rest is history. When the cop drama "Cagney and Lacey" was canceled, it was also saved by a letter writing campaign. "Mom" was officially canceled in February 2021, and fans mobilized with the petition "Save the Brilliant Sitcom Mom!"

The petition was signed by over 50,000 people. Fans who were in recovery felt it was important that the show stay on the air, because a lot of addicts were struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the petition on Change.org stated, "'Mom' has been a crucial voice in de-stigmatizing addiction. This show has no doubt saved countless lives by promoting substance abuse recovery and encouraging people to seek help." While the show still went off the air, the spirit of "Mom," and how it gave a voice to people in recovery, is certain to carry on for a long time to come.

The creators didn't want the show to have a convenient ending

A lot of sitcoms have endings where everything ends up just fine, and everyone lives happily ever after. With a show like "Mom," having everything wrapped up with a neat little bow at the end would be a cop-out, and Gemma Baker didn't want a convenient ending for the show. She told The Hollywood Reporter: "Because of the nature of the show, it didn't feel truthful to have an ending where everything is tied up, because the show has always really been about reality and characters showing up for life on life's terms."

Baker recalled how the finale was hard to put together because they "wanted to bring the show to a close in a way that was meaningful and that did the best for our characters and the cast and our audience." Like the characters, the creative staff of "Mom" had to deal with life on life's terms. They were forced to bring everything to a close differently after Anna Faris left the show, which greatly changed the dynamic. If they knew in advance that the eighth season was going to be the last, it would have given them more time to bring some arcs to a close more naturally.