TV Review: ‘Mike & Molly’ Elevate Heart Above the Usual Sitcom

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CHICAGO – The sitcom format that began with and was perfected by “I Love Lucy” (with its set-up/joke/laugh rhythm) remains unchanged since “Babaloo” was a catchphrase. “Mike & Molly,” which is a new CBS TV comedy premiering on Monday, Sept. 20, 2010 at 8:30 p.m. CST, conveys more of that sameness, but seeks to rise above the usual with some heartfelt performances.

HollywoodChicago.com Television Rating: 3.5/5.0
Television Rating: 3.5/5.0

Produced by Chuck Lorre of “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory,” Mike & Molly explores the potential relationship of two plus-size people who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. Billy Gardell is the rotund Mike, a Chicago cop with his lonely heart on his sleeve, and Melissa McCarthy plays Molly, a school teacher balancing her classroom with her wacky home life.

The story begins with Mike staring down another diet plate, sharing the meal with his beat partner Carl (Reno Wilson). He is a man on a husky island, looking for the humor in his overweight state and trying to stave off his loneliness. He is noticed by Molly at their group meeting, but the shy and insecure cop has a hard time asking the willing teacher on their first date.

Molly is dealing with her home life, living with her widowed mother Joyce (Swoosie Kurtz and pot smoking sister Victoria (Katy Mixon). She has developed her late father’s weight problems, while her sister and mother seem oblivious to the constant state of exercise and diet that Molly practices. She has come to terms with the struggle, but doesn’t understand why the charming Mike won’t make a move, even when she invites him to lecture her 4th grade class.


Beat Cop Rap: Billy Gardell as Mike and Melissa McCarthy as Molly in ‘Mike & Molly’
Photo Credit: CBS-TV

It takes a call on a burglary for Mike & Molly to get back together, after Molly’s house is cleaned out. With the encouragement of his wise-cracking police partner, and with her mother and sister looking on, Mike finally breaks down his fear and begins the next phase of the journey by asking Molly out.

This is the type of show that rises and falls on its two leads, luckily Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy are primed to express the coupling honestly and with heart. Gardell is particularly funny talking about his size, using gentle jokes and depreciation to communicate the life. McCarthy was hilarious in the classroom, killing the saintly teacher image by a simple Sister-Mary-Elephant-style “Shut up!” The couple have good initial chemistry, which is grateful since their character names are in the title (see producer Lorre’s previous show, “Dharma & Greg”).

Where the show weakens is in its supporting cast. Mike’s partner Carl trips over himself with the extremity of his line delivery, tipping nothing subtle and at times making it impossible to believe that he could be a cop. Molly’s mother and sister are sitcom stereotypes, contrasting so much with the gentler couple that they could be in another show. And like wow, man, I’m shocked that a mainstream network sitcom has a blatant dope smoking character in Molly’s sis, is the era of ‘just say no’ over? Tell Nancy Reagan the news.


Making the Connection: Reno Wilson as Carl and Katy Mixon as Victoria Consult the Couple in ‘Mike & Molly’
Photo Credit: CBS-TV

Another piece of annoyance is the constant barrage of fat jokes. The writers will get meaner, guaranteed, because there is a finite barrel in which these jokes preside. It’s as if they want to celebrate the more porcine in America, but at the same time hold the couple at arm’s length with a few remarks about having cake and eating it too. And is Swoosie Kurtz’s mother character suppose to be a drunk? It was hard to tell around her slurred delivery.

This show does have potential, mostly around the warmth of the main characters. Maybe they can do a cross promotion with “The Biggest Loser,’ and then Mike & Molly can become slim yuppies residing in the Gold Coast. This will make everyone feel better, except the pot smoking sister, who always feels better.

”Mike & Molly” premieres Monday, September 20th, at 9:30pm EST/8:30pm CST on CBS-TV. Check local listings for channel location. Featuring Billy Gardell, Swoosie Kurtz, Melissa McCarthy, Reno Wilson and Katy Mixon, produced by Chuck Lorre.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2010 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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