You can tell “Call Your Mother” was created before the coronavirus pandemic.
When an Iowa mom doesn’t hear from her son in four days, she decides to move to California and discover why.
Armed with socks and toilet paper, she flies there, rents a guest house, discovers her daughter has been keeping secrets and, yes, barges in on Freddie just when he’s celebrating a career victory.
It’s a lot to unpack in a matter of minutes, but it gets Kyra Sedgwick out of Iowa and into her children’s lives.
Both Freddie (Joey Bragg) and Jackie (Rachel Sennott) aren’t really keen on her smothering techniques. They call her out, then realize she’s not headed back to Waterloo anytime soon. When they agree to a dinner at her fairly smart cottage, they see she already has made herself at home.
Created by Kari Lizer, “Call Your Mother” could have found a place on a network schedule a decade or so ago. What gives it a fresh punch is Freddie’s girlfriend, Celia (Emma Caymares), who’s an “influencer” just looking for a good background for a selfie. She punctures some of the pretentiousness and gets solid laughs. Austin Crute works overtime, too, as Jackie’s gay friend, Lane, who isn’t afraid to fill in the details viewers need to understand why the children are so distant.
Sedgwick breezes through the scenes as if she has been playing something like this for years but Lizer doesn’t give much motivation for her characters’ moves. Jean Raines is either a classic “smother” or a woman who doesn’t have much going on back home. There, a friend (nicely played by Sheri Shepherd) tries to make sense of her decisions.
Oddly, Shepherd stays in Iowa (where she works at Ross Dress for Less, which doesn’t have a Waterloo outlet) and does much of her counseling by phone. A quick move west would help considerably.
How Lizer will spin this is anyone’s guess. Besides the arm’s-length children, Jean has an Australian landlord (Patrick Brammall), a chummy dog and enough toilet paper to make anyone quarantining at home an immediate friend.
Sedgwick has good timing but she could easily ditch the kids and embrace another storyline. There’s a “Forensic Files” reference that is only good for a joke or two, then disappears. Once she’s settled in, Jean doesn’t seem too worried about the folks she encounters or her daughter’s oh-so-old boyfriend/boss.
Throwing in a few more Iowa references (we’ve got plenty of them) would help “Mother” distinguish itself from dozens of similar comedies. “Bless This Mess” took its “Green Acres” plot, infused it with a big helping of Nebraska and found a way to thrive. “Call Your Mother” could do the same thing. Loose meats, anyone?