Watching just one episode isn't usually enough to get a real feel for what's going on with a series. The Flaming Nose likes to take a look at a couple to see what the trends are -- is the comedy pilot jam-packed with laughs, and the rest of the episodes too dry, or maybe the pilot is spotty, and things get better in the subsequent weeks.
Let's take a look at CBS' new Monday night 9:30pm comedy Mike & Molly, starring Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy as two oversized Chicago singles who start a relationship. It's plenty funny enough to fill The Big Bang Theory's former timeslot, and with a Chuck Lorre it has a lot in common with that now-quite successful show. Mike & Molly takes an essentially nice central couple of characters and surrounds them with dialogue which is often raunchy and sexually-explicit.
During the first two episodes there were references to masturbation, queers and queens, condoms and lube, penis and weiners, "snapper" as synonym for vagina, Molly's first period compared to tomato sauce, vomit, and pot jokes. For comparison, in an episode of FX's Louie it was entirely appropriate and brilliant to have a poker game conversation revolve around gay bath house activity, with no-holds-barred descriptions and quips about gay male sex, culminating in an honest and stunning moment of drama, and then more dirty jokes.
In Mike & Molly the aforementioned references felt out of place, shoehorned in for shock effect. As I've said many times here I'm no prude, but Chuck Lorre seems to enjoy smashing the audience's face into edgy -- but not in a good way, in a childish showoffy way -- content that doesn't do the show any favors. The Mike & Molly dialogue provoked, for me at least, more of an "ewwww" reaction, not so with Louie. Mike & Molly uses dirty words as a cheap trick for cheap laughs, and it doesn't need to.
To the credit of leads Gardell and McCarthy, Mike and Molly are personable characters and already you're rooting for them. Gardell manages to achieve something that perhaps some viewers might find unimaginable -- his Mike is a strong and sexy man with tremendous personal appeal. McCarthy's Molly is nice but not cloying, a real woman living with her mother and sister who unfortunately are completely cartoonish laugh machines, as is Mike's cop friend and partner played by Reno Wilson. So what, it's a comedy, right? But please, do we need to hear penis jokes in a show like this?
The fat jokes? Plenty and often self-inflicted so that's maybe better. American culture hasn't figured out how it really feels about fat people. Are thin people watching Mike & Molly to laugh at the chubby leads? I doubt it, because they are only characters who have any heart. Are fat people watching as an affirmation? I don't know. What Mike & Molly seems to do best is be a love story. Maybe that's not what CBS wants out of a comedy with Two and Half Men as a lead-in, but unless the show gets nastier and more cruel (and dirtier, which happened to The Big Bang Theory), I think that's what's working.
Mike & Molly airs Mondays at 9:30pm on CBS.