Emmy episode analysis: Allison Janney (‘Mom’) is reminiscent of ‘Roseanne’ in her mournful episode

After winning Emmys for Best Comedy Supporting Actress in 2014 and 2015 for her work on “Mom,” Allison Janney is nominated for the first time in the Best Comedy Actress category for her role on the CBS sitcom as Bonnie Plunkett, a recovering addict who struggles to maintain a tenuous relationship with both her sobriety and her daughter Christy (Anna Faris).

A win here would mark Janney’s eighth career Emmy victory, tying her with the legendary Cloris Leachman for the most Primetime Emmys in performance categories. Along with her dual wins for “Mom,” Janney has also won Emmys for “The West Wing” (Drama Supporting Actress, 2000-2001; Drama Actress, 2002 and 2004) and “Masters of Sex” (Drama Guest Actress, 2014).

In Janney’s episode submission, “Tush Push and Some Radishes,” Bonnie learns that her estranged mother, who had abandoned Bonnie as a child, has suddenly died. Bonnie refuses to feel any sadness, but reluctantly agrees to go with Christy to help clean out her late mother’s apartment. After finding a stash of money in the freezer Bonnie is elated, a feeling that dissipates when she meets Ray (Leonard Roberts), who reveals that he is Bonnie’s half-brother. Bonnie becomes incensed when she realizes that her mother abandoned her and kept Ray, who has grown into a successful attorney. Later, Bonnie visits her mother’s grave a releases all of her anger and resentment before saying a final goodbye.

Will Janney earn a record-tying eighth Emmy? Let’s examine the pros and cons of her submission.


We see Janney’s character displaying a multitude of emotions throughout the episode. After displaying a degree of nonchalance about her mother’s death, we see Bonnie’s resentment after she meets her more successful brother. When she finally releases her anger and sadness at her mother’s grave, Janney conveys not just anger over her mother’s neglect, but also remorse for always blaming her mother for her own mistakes, showing the kind of emotional range that tends to grab Emmy voters’ attention.

The submission ends on an impactful note with Bonnie’s graveside speech to her mother. It’s a moment that bears a striking resemblance to the winning episode submitted in this category by Roseanne Barr (“Roseanne“) in which her character reads a letter to her abusive father after he passes away.

Janney’s choice to submit herself in the lead category is a strategy that has paid off before. After winning twice in the drama supporting category for “The West Wing” Janney promoted herself to the lead category, resulting in two additional wins. Will this same strategy pay off the second time around?


Janney is far more popular with Emmy voters than the series, which aside from Janney has yet to earn nominations in any other above-the-line categories. The lack of broad support for the show could hurt Janney as voters may choose to reward a show with broader support.

Janney faces strong competition in this category, particularly from Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”), who has triumphed in this category for the last five years. With “Veep” reaping its highest nomination tally to date (17), Louis-Dreyfus has the momentum behind her, which could prevent Janney from earning that eighth Emmy statue.

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