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'Call Your Mother' or She'll Star in a Sitcom
January 13, 2021  | By David Hinckley

If Alison Janney's Mom leaves you hungry for more incredibly annoying and yet somehow ultimately endearing mothers, then Call Your Mother should satisfy your appetite.

Call Your Mother, which launches Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. ET on ABC, shares something else with Mom: a terrific actress in the lead role.

This time it's Kyra Sedgwick (top) as Jean Raines, a retired widow who lives in Iowa and has way too much time on her hands.

She has two grown kids, Jackie (Rachel Sennott) and Freddie (Joey Bragg), who live in California and are figuring out their lives.

Jackie, the older, is the dutiful daughter and seems to have her life on track. Good job, serious boyfriend. Freddie, on the other hand, well, Jean doesn't know exactly what Freddie is up to.

So when he doesn't return her phone calls for four days, she decides to fly to L.A., rent a place, and meddle in their lives, like in the old days when they lived at home, and Jean had, you know, purpose.

Much as she loves her best friend Sharon (Sherri Shepherd) in Iowa, she can't stand the thought that her family isn't "a village." Or that her nest is empty.

The premise of a helicopter Mom feeling it's almost an obligation to dive into the lives of her adult children feels a little less than fresh.

Sedgwick has a good track record, though, and when she arrives in L.A., it helps that both kids are involved with people who are as potentially interesting, for TV sitcom purposes, as they are.

Freddie is seeing Celia (Emma Caymares), who seems to make a living through cool detachment on some form of social media. Jackie rooms with Lane (Austin Crute), who is gay and delightful if more than slightly stereotyped.

When Jean warns Lane that the reunion dinner with her kids "could get ugly," he tells her that he came out to his parents on the way to Bible camp, so he has some experience in family ugly.

Further enhancing the larger story here, Jean is renting her L.A. place from Danny (Patrick Brammall), who is in the middle of a divorce from a wife who was sleeping with the 30-year-old lifeguard.

We know those details because Danny, who conveniently is a therapist, blurts them all out in casual landlord/renter conversation.

That is to say, Danny has no visible filters, making him a soulmate with Jean, who will discuss her sex life, or lack of a sex life, with anyone. Including the kids.

That's apparently a trait she passed down to her kids. Jean wistfully remembers that when Freddie "almost" had his first sexual experience, the first call he made afterward was to Mom.

That might sound creepy if it weren't clear by this point that Call Your Mother couldn't make it through the first episode without retreating to the comedic comfort zone of sex jokes.

And if it's going there, the viewer can also legitimately wonder how long it will take for all this mother/child annoyance to dissolve into the similar safety of an epic group hug. We won't spoil whether it does, but we will say that much of the writing, unfortunately, is not much fresher than the premise.

We like the characters here. Some of the one-liners and quirks are amusing. Call Your Mother just feels like it's paddling on the surface of a too-familiar pond.

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