Judge Patrick Bromley wouldn't mind the fat jokes so much if they were about cannibals eating Chuck Lorre.
This could be the start of something big.
Because Chuck Lorre needed yet another hit sitcom on CBS.
Facts of the Case
Mike & Molly is a show about the growing romance between two plus-size Chicagoans who meet in an Overeaters Anonymous meeting: beat cop Mike Briggs (stand-up comic Billy Gardell, Bad Santa) and elementary school teacher Molly Flynn (Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids). As they fall more deeply in love, their world become entwined, meaning Mike gets to know Molly's pothead sister (Katie Mixon, Eastbound and Down) and her promiscuous mother (Swoosie Kurtz, Cruel Intentions), while Molly has to spend time with Mike's partner Carl (Reno Wilson, Crank), his overbearing mother (Rondi Reed, Jungle 2 Jungle) and her dog, Jim.
Here are the 24 episodes that make up Mike & Molly: The Complete First Season, spread across two discs:
Mike & Molly, CBS's latest breakout hit, is two shows fighting for dominance. The dichotomy is evident from the series pilot: on the one hand, you have a sweet, gentle show about two people who are cautious and scared falling in love with one another in a realistic way. On the other, you have a broad sitcom about two overweight people, a druggie sister, a sarcastic waiter and a slutty mom. The couple at the center of Mike & Molly occupy the first show; the rest of the cast occupies the second. I like the first show. I could do without the other.
First, the good: at its center, Mike & Molly is a likable show about two people afraid of being hurt who cautiously enter into a relationship and are surprised at how quickly they fall in love. The "hook" of the series, I suppose, is that both characters are overweight, which, at times, lends itself to way too many "ha ha let's goof on the fat people" jokes. But I appreciate the fact that it's not just all fat jokes (I would prefer there not be any) came as a surprise, and the show does at least acknowledge that food is a real issue and a real struggle for both characters (they even meet in an OA meeting, which isn't simply dropped once it serves its plot function), and it does actually inform the way they approach new relationships. It would have been very easy for the sitcom to write off overeating and body image as joke fodder, but I don't think Mike & Molly does that. Not all the time, anyway. Mostly, though, what works about the series is the relationship between the two leads, and Gardell and McCarthy (who just picked up an Emmy for her work on the series) are warm and vulnerable and self-deprecating and very funny. They make each other laugh, and so many love stories take that for granted—even the ones that are supposed to be comedies. It's nice to see a show about two decent people who genuinely enjoy getting to know one another and spending time together. Series television doesn't always have the patience for that.
As much as I liked the sensitive portrait of blossoming romance in the first half of the season, even those shows get awfully repetitive. I read something recently in the A.V. Club that suggested networks want the first eight or ten episodes of a new series to just rehash the pilot, lest any stragglers find the series after a few airings and find themselves unable to follow a simple premise. Watching the first half of Mike & Molly, I'm inclined to believe that theory is completely true; the show finds a formula that (sort of) works and repeats it in episode after episode. Mike and Molly are both nervous about some upcoming milestone in their burgeoning relationship (their first date, the first time they're going to sleep together, the first time they cohabitate), Mike screws up, Molly gets annoyed, Mike shows up at Molly's house late at night and apologizes, all is well again. The way that it takes the time to show a relationship progressing is one of the things I like about the show, but the way that it repeats itself over and over breaks any forward momentum and turns the series from a show about two people in love into a show about a woman annoyed by the cluelessness of a man.
Unfortunately, that's really where the show begins heading the season's back half. Once Mike and Molly are established as a couple—and it takes a while to get there, for better and worse—it's as though the writers aren't sure where to take their show (either that or executive producer Lorre began exercising more control, because there's suddenly more of the bitterness and hostility that we've come to associate with his work) and so they start turning into something from the late 1990s. I'm a fan of The King of Queens, but even I don't think we need an imitator of that show on the air in 2011; watching Gardell's sweetness melt away in favor of ignorance and bravado reminded me of that Kevin James series at its worst moments. The characters' universe begins to expand a bit, too, which could be good—if it's going to last, Mike & Molly can't only focus on Mike and Molly—but the bench of supporting characters is so one-dimensional and broad that it isn't any fun to spend time with them. They're just walking punchline machines, and because the characters are so firmly locked in as "types," we already know what those hacky punchlines are going to be.
Anyone watching Mike & Molly regularly in its HD broadcasts on CBS won't be surprised by what they find on the Blu-ray of Mike & Molly: The Complete First Season. The show looks very good in high def, with bright, clean colors and images and no visible compression or other digital artifacts. Is it the kind of series that needs to be viewed in HD? Hardly. Does it still look very good? You bet. The DTS-HD audio track isn't asked to do much but deliver the dialogue in the clearest way possible and balance it with the ever-present Chuck Lorre laugh track (though this show, like Lorre's other hit series, is actually recorded in front of a live audience; at least the laughs are real). At this, it does a fine job.
The set is a bit short on bonus features, consisting of just a few featurettes and a gag reel that's just OK. The first featurette, "Falling in Love with Mike and Molly," has cast members interviewing one another about the show (it's a conceit also employed on the recent Season Four release of The Big Bang Theory). It's a likable enough piece and offers viewers the chance to see the cast interact, but not much more. A second featurette, "Mike and Molly Play Acts," goes behind the scenes at how some of the series is staged in front of a live audience—most notably, the numerous driving sequences with Gardell and Reno Wilson (they pre-tape those scenes, then reenact them in front of a cheap backdrop for the studio audience). It's an interesting little bit of production information, but goes on too long and is perhaps a bit too impressed with itself. The final bonus feature is a time-wasting "interview" with Jim the Dog, who I'm sure has his fans.
Mike & Molly needs to do a better job of focusing on its strengths—the two lead performances and sweetness of their relationship—and avoid indulging in its worst tendencies (you know, most of the stuff that comes from Chuck Lorre). While the first half of the season does feel repetitive, it's preferable to the second half, in which the show settles into an all-too typical battle-of-the-sexes relationship sitcom. The world doesn't need another According to Jim; it's shows like that that almost killed the sitcom in the first place. There's enough good in Mike & Molly that I'll stick with it into its second season, but—aside from the performances of Gardell and McCarthy—I'm not yet willing to determine if it's anything but an agreeable time waster.
Let's wait and see.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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