Tonight marks the premiere of CBS's Mom a vehicle for Anna Faris, a promising actress whose choices consistently disappoint. Actually, fall TV is full of actresses who are better than the material they are being given.
Anna Faris has a lot of goodwill for not actually having ever been in anything very good. Why? It's because she's consistently better than the material she's given, doing hilarious things with uninspired fare like The House Bunny. We had hoped that Mom would do better by her. Unfortunately, the pilot does not. Faris plays a single mom (yeah, duh), who is a waitress and recovering addict, who has to deal with her own formerly addicted mom played by Allison Janney. It's edgy stuff, especially when you are considering that it's coming from Chuck Lorre, who birthed The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men. The material here should allow Faris to be at her weirdest and funny, but instead jokes about cocaine come off as sunny punchlines as the audience laughs along. Of all the shows on this list, however, Mom is the one with the most promise. Sitcom pilots are naturally tricky things, and if the show can capitalize on Faris' wonderful weirdness and its own dark heart, this might actually be good for the actress.
ABC's Super Fun Night, Rebel Wilson's new show, is perhaps more disappointing than Mom, probably because it's material Wilson wrote herself. Wilson made a name for herself by being truly outrageous in films like Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect, but in her own show she's given herself the role of the boring "straight woman." Wilson's intentions are honorable, she truly wants to create outcasts, as Lynn Hirschberg's profile of her revealed, but unfortunately the show is not very funny. She mutes her own talents in the pilot, affecting a not-great American accent instead of her natural Australian, and bottling up her humor to play a successful lawyer who struggles in social situation. It's great that she didn't want the women on her show to be Zooey Deschanel-types, but she should have played to her own strengths. (Note: the pilot will not be the first episode aired.)
Megan Hilty was the best part of Smash, so we expected her next move to help her rise above that disaster of a show. NBC's Sean Saves the World isn't a terrible show—it's fairly standard sitcom territory—but Hilty can do so much more than play a nervous co-worker of Sean Hayes. Luckily she takes on a bigger role in the following episodes, becoming a sort of sexy surrogate mother to Sean's daughter. Still, she needs a show where she's not an afterthought.
Sarah Michelle Gellar
The days of Buffy are long gone, and poor Sarah Michelle Gellar has been cursed with projects that almost make us forget how funny, poignant, and, well, kickass she was on that show. Ringer was pure schlock, and now she has to play against Robin Williams at his most manic in CBS's The Crazy Ones. It's hard to compete with Williams being Williams, but Gellar does not stand a chance. While we're on the subject of that show, James Wolk (Mad Men's Bob Benson) deserves better as well.
Tony-winner Katie Finneran is hilarious on NBC's The Michael J. Fox Show, but unfortunately she's making the best of material that casts her a Fox's needy sister, who keeps trying to appear younger than she is. Even her impeccable timing can't help that the show paints its female characters in broad, unflattering stereotypes.