Mike & Molly - CBS - Mondays at 9:30
I will be the first to admit - I'm just not the person for whom 4-camera Sit-coms are made. (A 4-camera sit-com is something like Everybody Loves Raymond or Friends - with two to three sets that are used for most of the scenes and filmed in front of a Live Studio Audience.)
I hate Laugh Tracks, and Live Audience Laughter isn't (to me) any less fake. I'm not a fan of broad comedy that has to over-sell to get the joke. And I just despise things that are dumbed down.
That said - I'm coming to grips with the fact that there is a place for that kind of comedy, the kind many people grew up with, and still enjoy. Often people want a show they don't have to think about a lot, one that evokes the familiar and lets them be comfortable without stress. Nothing wrong with that, I guess, but it's hard for me to groove into it. Recently I tried watching an episode of Two and a Half Men. My anguished Twitter barrage drew much criticism and taught me that I'm the oddball here - most people like this stuff. Hey, whatever works.
I guess, then, I am the wrong person to review Mike & Molly, CBS's new Comedy that appears after the juggernaut 2.5 Hombres, but I drew the short straw, and so watch it I did.
Here's what I Twittered 2 minutes after finishing the Series Premiere:
However, since my feelings on 4-Camera Sit-coms are established, it doesn't serve you, my wonderful audience, very well to just trash something. Thus, I did my best to view the show the way a fan of the Traditional Sitcom might, and report back.
Mike & Molly is about two....um...plus-sized people in Chicago trying to find love. They meet at OA (Overeaters' Anonymous), and one can only presume that several scenes per episode will take place there.
If I cared more than I do I might write a nice few paragraphs about what it means (or doesn't mean) for CBS to make a show about big people, whom generally are only supporting characters. But I don't care that much. I think it's a little bit significant, since TV is usually about beautiful people, but we all know that ever since Jackie Gleason there has been an audience for the fat leading man. Hell, in recent years CBS has made it a veritable staple of their Comedy programming line-up.
In this case it's Mike Biggs (groan at the last name), played by Billy Gardell. I like Gardell, he has good comic timing and an easy way about him. I remember him in some NBC show a few years back called Heist; I always thought he had a future in comedy.
Here's Mike Biggs, talking at an OA meeting, about buying one bag of candy for Trick-or-Treaters, which turns into 19 fun-sized candy bars in his mouth at once, and a whole shame spiral, etc....
Mike: ...Then of course the self-loathing kicks in, and the voices in my head start telling me how no one's ever gonna love me, you know and how I'm going to spend the last few years of my life alone in a dark apartment, my only companions six or seven cats that made the mistake of wondering into my gravitational field.
Mike delivers these lines with an "aw-shucks" attitude, and even if it plays as stand-up comedy at the Improv it's pretty good.
Mike is a cop, and his partner is Carl (Reno Wilson), a skinny black guy who's a player but also lives at home with his grandma. The show tries very hard to establish these two have a good-natured banter going on but really care about each other. Again, this is mother's milk to CBS comedy fans, so they should eat it up.
On the other side of the ledger is Molly Flynn, played by Melissa McCarthy. She was Sookie in Gilmore Girls, if that means anything to you. There's no denying McCarthy is a heavy girl but she's also gorgeous (I know; beautiful face, cliche, but whatever - it's totally true) and CBS wisely has J. Lo's makeup woman, which is to say, they go out of their way to make sure Molly looks great. This is very smart. Normal people like to watch Hollywood to see beautiful people, and if you're going to break that rule and show someone more normal-sized, you better know what you're doing.
Molly is every bit as funny as Mike when talking about herself. Here she is, confessing at OA:
Molly: ...and you know, I'm never gonna be a Size 2, and that's fine, because I happen to like who I am. There's nothing wrong with me as a person. I'm smart, I'm funny...I recycle! [last part said with a twirl]....I just wanna learn to control my eating, and not keel over in a White Castle Drive-Thru like my dad. [In a whisper]...and It was his third lap!....[normal]...Oh, and I would love to be able to walk into a night club without having every queen in the room jump on me like I'm a Gay Pride Float.
The really big guns (no pun intended) are in the casting of Molly's family. Her mom Joyce is played by Swoosie Kurtz, who bears consideration for the Mt. Rushmore of older-lady comic timing. (Betty White and Jessica Walters are Washington and Lincoln: Locks; the other two spots have about 7 ladies vying for them, but Kurtz is definitely right there.)
Kurtz is not a big woman, a genetic inconsistency covered in the first Molly scene, which shows Molly on an exercise cycle and Joyce obliviously eating a chocolate cake (where she used pudding instead of milk, and why hasn't that been tried more often?????) Molly is complaining that her mom is not being supportive...
Mom: Face it: you're a big-boned girl, and you're always gonna be a big-boned girl.
Molly: Bones don't jiggle, Ma.
Mom: You just got to accept that you got your daddy's genes. I mean if you had a turkey-leg in one hand and the other hand down your pants, I'd swear he was risen from the dead.
Swoosie delivers this line with everything she has, but to me it isn't funny. That doesn't stop the audience from howling, however. I know I said I wouldn't complain any more, but if I could just complain a little:
I know you didn't hear the line, but look at what the mom says. If you WERE going to laugh naturally, you'd start laughing around the word turkey-leg, or at least by the time she says "down your pants." Yet the audience is dead silent until the line is finished, then dies laughing. I realize for practical reasons you don't want the audience to "step" on the line with their laughter, but since it's not a natural place for people to start laughing the whole thing feels weird to me. I know, I know - something you probably get used to.
Last but not least is Molly's sister Victoria, played by Katy Mixon, a buxom girl herself but in proportions that would make most women jealous and most men forget what day it is. I am a recent fan of Mixon because of her role on Eastbound and Down, so it was cool to see her. (Not for any other reason...I don't know what you're talking about!)
Sadly, at least in the first episode Victoria is even more clueless than her mother, and a pot-head as well, which isn't helping in the IQ department. Ugh. I know there are guys who like stupid girls, but I ain't one of them. For Katy's sake, I'll give her another chance, though. You never know when someone will show you some hidden assets they possess.
(Not much chance CBS comedies will ever show nudity - though they'd gain many lifelong viewers if they did. However, there was a barely concealed blowjob joke that sort of shocked me. Since I don't watch regular TV too often I didn't realize how far we'd swung that a mainstream comedy could do that.)
I don't know whether a comedy like Mike & Molly will work. It has a killer time slot, but that brings increased expectations as well. I have no ability to "judge" whether it's funny to its intended audience or not. Watching CBS comedies is like drinking Diet pop: it takes awhile before you can stand the taste and distinguish one from the other.
That wasn't a fat joke either, but the writers of Mike & Molly are more than welcome to steal it. They can use all the help they can get.
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