Sept. 23--The Goldbergs: sitcom. 9 p.m. Tuesday on ABC.
Mom: sitcom. 9:30 p.m. Monday on CBS.
If there's one thing "Mom" and "The Goldbergs" agree on, it's that parents can be a pain in the posterior no matter what the decade.
"The Goldbergs," premiering Tuesday on ABC, is set in the '80s. "Mom," starring Anna Faris as a recovering substance-abusing single mom, premieres Monday on CBS and is as up to date as an episode of any daytime talk show. Nonetheless, the two sitcoms stick to traditional sitcom format, although the frequency of more jokes about sex and drugs in "Mom" may trick you into thinking it's the hipper show.
"The Goldbergs" is funnier because the jokes are better but also because it is more credible. Well, it should be, because it's based on the family of actor-writer Adam F. Goldberg, the show's creator. Back in the '80s, he was just a kid but was already practicing for show business by videotaping his family. His younger self is played by Sean Giambrone in "The Goldbergs," and quite well at that.
Young Adam is not only the unofficial but entirely intrusive family videographer, he's also the center of unwanted attention from his overbearing mother, Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey, "Reno 911") and receives regular tutelage on the mysteries of the opposite sex from his grandfather Albert (George Segal, "Just Shoot Me"). Gramps has a racy new red sports car, but in truth he probably shouldn't be driving. As domineering as Beverly can be, her husband Murray (Jeff Garlin, "Wizards of Waverly Place") knows better than to voice any opinion other than his wife's.
On the other hand, Adam's older brother Barry (Troy Gentile, "Good Luck Chuck") has just come of driving age and is begging for wheels. Their sister Erica (Hayley Orrantia, "The X Factor") has her license but on the theory that pretty girls can always get rides, her parents won't get her a car.
There's an appealing "Wonder Years" quality about "The Goldbergs," which is to say you'll immediately like everyone in the family and the jokes derive from credible situations.
It's more difficult to like the family in "Mom," although one of the two matriarchs is definitely easier to warm up to than the other.
Anna Faris ("The House Bunny") plays Christy, a recovering alcoholic with three kids, including a sexually active teenage daughter, Violet (Sadie Calvano). Christy is trying to make ends meet working as a waitress. And speaking of ends meeting, she's sleeping with her married boss.
No doubt staying sober one day at a time is a challenge, but it becomes a bigger challenge when Christy runs into her mom, Bonnie (Allison Janney, "The West Wing"), at an AA meeting. Bonnie says she's recovering as well and it's not as difficult as she thought it would be, thanks to the Xanax she takes now and again.
The show was co-created with Gemma Baker by Eddie Gorodetsky and Chuck Lorre, who have helped CBS create a solid sitcom block on Monday nights with shows like "Mike & Molly," and former Monday night anchor, "Two and a Half Men." Director Pamela Fryman has also done her bit for CBS sitcom dominance on Monday, directing almost 200 episodes of "How I Met Your Mother." With "Mother" heading into its final season, CBS obviously wants to position "Mom" to maintain the Monday night success beyond the 2013-14 season.
Faris is terrific, and so is Janney. Janney wasn't terrific when she was "zany Janney" in ABC's miserable "Mister Sunshine," but she's slightly more grounded as "Mom's" mom, who seems to have no filter between her brain and her mouth.
Both sitcoms face challenges. "The Goldbergs" may seem too old-fashioned and, well, too '80s for a contemporary audience, especially since it's almost warm and fuzzy. "Mom" is hard-edged, snark-dependent and brittle.
What makes "The Goldbergs" better? It's funnier.
David Wiegand is The San Francisco Chronicle's executive features editor and TV critic. E-mail: email@example.com Twitter: @WaitWhat_TV
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