The two main characters on CBS’ “Mike & Molly” are both overweight. That’s not us being hyper-analytyical or hyper-critical.
Mike (Billy Gardell) and Molly (Melissa McCarthy) meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. Both characters spend much of the pilot episode discussing their weight or having other characters discuss their weight. On at least two occasions, Mike upends or crushes tables with his girth. On the surface, the focus of “Mike & Molly” appears to be only on one thing.
So on Wednesday (July 28) morning, the “Mike & Molly” team took great pains to tell the Television Critics Association that their new Monday night comedy won’t only be a collection of fat jokes and pratfalls, even if such things come organically.
“I broke a chair before I came over here,” Gardell told the press tour crowd. “I’m not kidding. It happens. I’m heavy.”
“Mike & Molly” will be moving into the 9:30 Monday slot that transformed “The Big Bang Theory” from a moderate success into a breakout smash, a slot behind “Two and a Half Men,” which remains TV’s most watched comedy. It’s no surprise that all three comedies come from Chuck Lorre, who defended the themes of his latest production.
“[T]his may sound ridiculous to some of you, but this isn’t a show about weight,” Lorre said. It’s a show about people trying to make their lives better and find someone that they can have a committed relationship with. And it’s also an ensemble show. It’s about real people, real problems. If… we’re talking about this issue come Episode 6, we’ve got a serious problem because it would get tired really quickly. It’s not enough to hang a series on, not by any stretch of the imagination. Mothers, sons, fathers, lovers, friends, money, health, work — those are the things you write about.”
Added series creator Mark Roberts, “I didn’t set out to write a show about Overeaters Anonymous. I wanted to write a show about two people at the beginning of a relationship, and that was the part of it that intrigued me the most… [I]t’s just a show about people with problems, which I think is the reason I wanted to do a show like this, was to get real people back on TV, because problems are usually what comedy is built around. So most of the stuff on TV seems pretty unrealistic to me. People are — they dress really nice, and their apartments are really nice. And I don’t buy any of their problems.”
In Gardell and McCarthy, “Mike & Molly” has a pair of proven scene-stealers with long resumes spent mostly as supporting actors. Even given the subject matter, their casting as the comedy’s lead almost counts as courageous.
Cracked Lorre, “[T]elevision would normally have cast Chris O’Donnell and Courteney Cox as the people who meet at Overeaters Anonymous.”
But, again, “Mike & Molly” isn’t a show about weight, or at least that’s what Lorre says. And co-star Swoosie Kurtz posits a theory on its universality.
“I think it will help people to feel not so alone,” Kurtz said. “We all kind of build these little self-imposed prisons of loneliness for ourselves, because of our feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, whether it takes the form of weight issues or a million things.”
In that respect, “Mike & Molly” is almost old-fashioned, which also isn’t a coincidence.
“Chuck and I, very early on, talked about ‘Marty’ as a template for this thing. And I think, you know, ‘The Honeymooners’ certainly factors into it. So I do think it’s incredibly cool that we’re followed by ‘Hawaii Five-0.’ That feels nice and retro too. It’s a pretty traditional sitcom.I think we wanted to do a meat-and-potatoes type of multicamera show.”
“Mike & Molly” premieres at 9:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 20 on CBS.