Jimmy and Nate are best friends. Jimmy also happens to be screwing Nate’s mom. That’s the premise of The CW’s Significant Mother, a comedy so slight, you might not even notice it is there.
While Nate (Josh Zuckerman) is off receiving a Restaurateur Of Tomorrow award for his work at his Portland eatery, his childhood best friend Jimmy (Nathaniel Buzolic) is bedding Nate’s 46-year-old mother, Lydia (Krista Allen). Nate is not happy about the development, nor is Lydia’s estranged husband/Nate’s dad, Harrison, who is overly concerned about—to the point of being creepy—who his wife happens to be fucking. He may have bedded half of Portland, but suddenly he’s the chivalrous defender of honor and virtue once he finds out that his wife is sleeping with the 26-year-old who used to defend his little boy from bullies in middle school.
That backstory—that Nate and Jimmy have been best friends since pre-K—makes Significant Mother a little skeezier than it needs to be. “You practically raised me,” is not something that should be said among romantic partners, although Jimmy goes for it anyway. Would Significant Mother be any better if circumstances were different? If Jimmy and Nate had met later in life? Probably not, but it would send fewer shivers down the spine if this woman hadn’t known Jimmy as a child.
Props should be given to Significant Mother in that there’s only one Mrs. Robinson joke in the pilot. Furthermore, the script riffs more on Lydia’s relationship to Jimmy’s best friend than it does on her age. This is a show that could rely heavily on cougar jokes, and it’s frankly surprising that it does not. Lydia is allowed to be sexual without it being a joke. (Only the first episode was sent out to critics so this could certainly change: Denise Richards guest stars in an upcoming episode as a “notorious cougar,” so take that as you will.) Rather than a MILF, the character is presented as a woman rediscovering her sexuality after 26 years in a bad marriage.
Jimmy also genuinely cares about his new girlfriend. There’s no development of their relationship outside of their sexual dalliances, but at least they say they like each other. Jimmy is a ladies’ man, but he’s willing to give it all up for a chance with Lydia. “You think I want to have feelings for her?” Jimmy says to Nate. “Do you think I want to have feelings for any woman?” Why would he want that? Nate has his own relationship woes to deal with outside of walking in on his mother and best friend having sex on the couch. He’s got a thing for his employee—Sam (Emma Fitzpatrick), a spritely singer-songwriter who looks like she’s completely costumed by Urban Outfitters—but she has a studly boyfriend (Jay Ali) to distract her from any feelings Nate may have for her.
Some of kind of an urban farmer, Jay wears vests and fedora and he’s indicative of the oddest thing about Significant Mother: how hard the show tries to be hip. This, in turn, makes it feel inherently unhip. (Jimmy should have taught Nate that the first rule of being cool is not trying to be cool.) The show takes place in Portland, Nate runs a restaurant that his father refers to as “hippie bull,” Jimmy brews his own beer infused with St. John’s Wort, and there’s a joke about a genetically modified cucumber dildo that Jimmy and Lydia leave lying around the house. “Oh, you don’t love Sam?” Jimmy says to Nate while in the throes of fighting about the course of true love. “And I don’t love hot yoga. Now we’re both lying.” It’s a line delivered without a trace of irony. But then again, so is the rest of the show.