How long do you give a sitcom to get past a narrow premise and branch out into more diverse and arguably more interesting/funny storylines? That’s the question looming over CBS’ new sitcom Mike & Molly, which spent the majority of its pilot last night focusing obsessively on the weight of its two lead characters, who meet-cute at a local Overeaters Anonymous gathering. Molly (Melissa McCarthy, formerly Gilmore Girls‘ quirky chef Sookie St. James), is a fourth grade teacher who can’t command a room of rowdy children without using her outside voice, and Mike (Billy Gardell) is Chicago police officer with a secret interest in ichthyology (fish). Each is blessed with honesty and a self-deprecating sense of humor, so it’s not hard to understand their instant attraction. After a brief flirtation and one awkward conversation with some curious fourth graders, they’ve got a first date lined up, which will lead us to episode two, and of course their inevitable coupledom.
In the pilot, the eponymous characters got upstaged by the supporting cast, particularly Molly’s big-boobed, big-haired, stoner sister Victoria (Katy Mixon) and her sassy mother (Swoosie Kurtz), who substitutes pudding for milk in her baking without any caloric consequence. There was toilet humor: Mike and his partner Carl (Reno Wilson) were not above trading jokes with “balls” and “farts” as punchlines. There was slapstick: A table collapsed underneath Mike just as he was trying to ask Molly on a date to the aquarium (what are the chances!?). And it all felt like a little much crammed into a single half-hour. But there were high points, too. I liked the cute way Mike managed to ask out Molly while taking a police report, and it was a pleasure to see the delightful McCarthy back on the small screen. But the question that remained for me at the end of Mike & Molly is the question I now turn over to you: How long can this show sustain itself on such a slim premise? Will all the laughs come in the form of cheap fat jokes? I don’t doubt that Billy Gardell is a funny guy, I just wonder if he can make me laugh without it being at his own expense.
Did you watch Mike & Molly? What did you think?