'Mike & Molly' Series Premiere

Perhaps we are ready to discuss weight and size more openly. Mike & Molly does its part by showcasing some common insensitivities.

Mike & Molly

Airtime: Mondays, 9:30pm ET
Cast: Billy Gardell, Melissa McCarthy, Remo Wilson, Katy Mixon, Nyambi Nyambi, Swoosie Kurtz
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: CBS
Director: James Burrows
Air date: 2010-09-20

Mike (Billy Gardell) and Molly (Melissa McCarthy) are fat. As though that weren't quite apparent, the opening scenes of CBS' new sitcom Mike & Molly features the two separately discussing their weight issues with respective friends and family. Despite their concerns about their weight, Mike and Molly are able to laugh about it too, along with everyone else they know. In fact, the premiere episode dropped more fat jokes than an episode of The Sopranos dropped the "f-bomb."

The very first line of dialogue in the series points out that Mike is a "large" man, and the gags at his expense continue through the opening scene. Mike's cop partner, Carl (Reno Wilson), even notes that he would shoot the pathetic Mike, but, "I don't have enough chalk to outline your body." Switch to Molly's home, where she's with her mother Joyce (Swoosie Kurtz) and voluptuous stoner sister Victoria (Katy Mixon). Molly is working valiantly to burn calories on an exercise machine while the others sit and munch on double chocolate blackout cake.

If the comedy is overstated, so too is the related requisite point, that in addition to being overweight, Mike and Molly are lonely and socially awkward. Their first encounter is shaped by what we know they want. When Molly is impressed with Mike's testimony at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, she introduces herself and invites him to come speak to her elementary class about being a policeman. Naturally, the inept Mike blows the occasion, by concluding his heartwarming story about his dad, also a cop, by mentioning that dad fell in love with a prostitute and left his mother. A further attempt to impress Molly is blown when Mike dislocates a finger.

Still, there is little doubt that their mutual attraction will lead Mike and Molly eventually to hook up (per the show's title). This obvious inevitability doesn't allow for much romantic tension, thus the premiere episode takes the easy route with the fat jokes, as opposed to focusing on, say, personality quirks or emotional complexities.

In this, Mike & Molly is typical of other TV shows -- usually sitcoms -- that feature characters with weight problems. The most notable is Roseanne, the first series to make the characters' weight an important part of their self-images and worldviews. Typically, the overweight character in a show is male (think: Jackie Gleason on The Honeymooners, Ed Asner on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Kevin James on The King of Queens, to name just a few). Lucille Ball famously had it written into her contract that Vivian Vance would always be heavier than her on I Love Lucy (and Vance was never "overweight"), but generally, overweight women haven't appeared on TV as frequently as their male counterparts. When Delta Burke gained weight while on Designing Women, the show glossed over the change in her appearance until it could ignore it no longer, and then highlighted Suzanne's weight in the classic "They Shoot Fat Women, Don't They?" episode.

While all of these earlier shows made mention of the overweight character's size, sometimes cruelly, the weight wasn't the star of the show. However, in recent years, a cultural reassessment of size has occurred, as more plus size models are finding work, and Dove drew attention for its "Real Women", as did Fruit of the Loom for the "BeautiFull-Figured" image. Daily, we are reminded of weight problems with news stories about obesity and health, helped along by Michelle Obama's "Let's Move." campaign.

Perhaps we are ready to discuss weight and size, as well as prejudices and anxieties, more openly. Mike & Molly does its part by showcasing some common insensitivities, such as the kid in Molly's class asking Mike how he can be a cop and be fat, or Molly wishing for a time when she can go to a club without "every queen in the place leaping on me like I'm a gay pride float." Similarly, the show explores the temptation to use food as a crutch, as Mike goes off his diet in response to his botched interactions with Molly.

Still, the preponderance of fat jokes raises doubts about the show's earnestness. No one is admonished for making the jokes, and no one points out their meanness. When Carl says Mike could get Molly with just a taffy apple, it reinforces the idea that an overweight person's world is regulated by food. Mike breaks his finger when a table collapses under his own weight, telling viewers that size is an appropriate source of slapstick humor. That Mike and Molly so frequently engage in self-deprecating humor bolsters the stereotype of the "jolly fat person."

When the subject isn't their size, Mike and Molly are likable people (although it is discomforting to see Molly repeatedly scream at her school kids to "shut up"). And, frankly, the premiere's funniest don't focus on weight (these are also the lines featured most frequently in trailers, suggesting that someone is aware of the line the fat jokes are walking). Let's hope for a time -- soon -- when Mike & Molly runs out of fat jokes and moves on to explore the dynamics of two people falling in love while working to overcome personal demons.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.