In this year of chaos, abrupt TV cast changes aren’t the most wild thing we’re dealing with. But Anna Faris‘s abrupt announcement that she would not be returning to the CBS sitcom in which she’s been starring since 2013 did throw a lot of people for a loop last summer — especially considering that she’s, y’know, the titular Mom.
But the series, as seen in the Season 8 premiere, has handled the pivot with a degree of grace, entirely because technically, Faris’s character wasn’t the only mother on the show, and her co-star is Allison fucking Janney, who can more than handle leading a sitcom on her own. But how does the show explain Christy’s absence? Well…
(Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Mom, Season 8, Episode 1, “Sex Bucket and the Grammar Police.”)
In other instances of shows suddenly deciding to recast major characters, death has always been a looming option, as seen when Roseanne transitioned to becoming The Conners, or when Kevin Can Wait couldn’t wait to set Erinn Hayes‘s character free. But Mom did not take such a dark approach! Instead, the episode opens with a very positive but still sad Bonnie (Janney) and husband (William Fichtner — yep!!!!) driving home from the airport, as they’ve just dropped off Christy for her flight to the East Coast, where she’ll be attending Georgetown Law School on a full scholarship.
After that scene, the action flashforwards a month to set up the show’s new normal, focusing on Bonnie and her friends coping with all the complications of their lives, from awkward relationships to medical issues. The new opening sequence focuses entirely on Janney as well as co-stars Mimi Kennedy, Jaime Pressly, Beth Hall, and Kristen Johnston — all of them fantastically funny women — which matches with the bulk of the episode’s story, in which the ladies throw Tammy (Johnston) a surprise party.
Not only is Christy not dead, but she’s not even dead to the characters — Bonnie talks frequently about talking to Christy, even taking a call from her at the end of the season. But even with Christy’s absence openly acknowledged, nothing honestly seems to be missing.
While Faris’s character was central to the premise, Janney had always been a co-lead, and Sadie Calvano and Blake Garrett Rosenthal, the actors playing Christy’s kids, were a big part of the show’s early seasons but are no longer series regulars. Mom is certainly a different show from when it first premiered, but it’s a show that could continue to thrive, thanks to its well-established cast of comedy greats.
Mom airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on CBS.