Fans of TV comedy shows like “Seinfeld,” “Frasier,” or “The Office” know the secret behind what makes these shows funny. Instead of barraging viewers with non-stop one-liners, these more sophisticated shows milk their humor from the characters themselves. If a character says something funny, it’s because the humor organically springs from the quirkiness of that character. In contrast, inferior TV comedy shows- which operate under the theory that if you throw enough spaghetti against the wall, some of it will stick – are peopled with robotic Henny Youngmans programmed to spout one “funny” line after the other. Unfortunately, CBS TV’s new sitcom “Mike and Molly” falls into this latter group, and the spaghetti is not very sticky.
I was predisposed to like “Mike and Molly” for health reasons. For me, laughter is a feel-good vitamin, and a half-hour daily sitcom is the perfect dose. The premise of “Mike and Molly” is unique and trendy. Fat people are “in” now, at least on television. And though the “meet cute” cliché of two fat people meeting at Overeaters Anonymous is a weak foundation, good writers could have overcome this shaky start and developed authentic, three-dimensional characters from whom humorous situations and dialogue naturally flowed. Like the Donner Party, however, the show’s writers took shortcuts, preferring to cut their characters from cardboard instead of sculpting them out of clay.
Take Molly’s sister… please. This sex-pot-smoking foil to the down-to-earth Molly is about as funny as scabies. Are we supposed to be amused that she orgasmically eats chocolate cake in front of her dieting sister; makes it her persona mission to get her sister “laid;” and smokes pot in front of police officers, to whom she flaunts herself as temptingly as a doughnut. Aside from being an unbelievable character, Victoria is unlikeable, and her mean-spirited lines land with a dull thud – despite the computerized laugh track’s desperate peals of laughter.
The only character less likeable than Victoria is Carl, Mike’s police partner, who calls women “bitches.” Although Mike constantly hints that Carl needs to duct tape his mouth, the loquacious Carl shoots out one-liners with machine gun rapidity. He unashamedly jokes with Mike, “Maybe we can find some girls who want to cop some pleas… or please some cops” and complains he is having trouble getting a lipstick stain off his pants. Did I mention that Carl is black? Though I try not to be too politically correct, this Carl character is as guilty as Don Imus or Fuzzy Zoeller in promoting racial stereotypes.
Meanwhile, talented stage actress Swoosie Kurtz, who plays Molly’s mother, is as wasted on “Mike and Molly” as caviar on children. Enough said.
Ironically, the best part of “Mike and Molly” is the lead characters, Mike and Molly, each of whom has more depth than all of the other characters combined. And it’s not because of their girth. Though both Mike and Molly are substantially overweight, their weight doesn’t define them as people. Neither Mike nor Molly likes being fat, but they like themselves. When Mike binges on fun-sized candy bars at the supermarket, he is upset with his behavior. But he does not denigrate himself, separating the actor from the act. Unfortunately, neither Mike nor Molly is particularly funny, but at least they don’t perpetuate negative stereotypes of large-sized people as self-loathing and miserable losers. On a serious note, that’s a good thing.
Mike and Molly Cast and Crew, Yahoo! TV