I just watched the first three episodes of Mike & Molly. Maybe it’s too early to tell, and maybe my expectations were too high because after reading a bit about it I’d made comparisons to the brilliant BBC show Gavin & Stacey in my head, but Mike & Molly seems to fall quite short of the hype. Now, after watching a few episodes of Two and a Half Men a few years ago, looking for something interesting but mindless, I found something that, I’m fairly sure, actively attempted to make me dumber. I won’t say the same about Mike & Molly, just that I’m disappointed that a great premise is so poorly executed.
I love a show that’s entirely about a relationship. We see it from its beginnings, see it develop; we see the difficulties, that it isn’t all candycanes and lollipops or hugs and kisses. That’s a recipe for a great show. Add to that the fact that we’re not just watching models grope at each other, but two people–Molly, a teacher, and Mike, a cop–who attend Overeaters Anonymous and struggle with some of the realities of life not generally seen on television. I loved that. Now, top it all off with two actors who really throw themselves into it: Billy Gardell (Mike) and Melissa McCarthy (Molly).
I love Melissa McCarthy. I always have. She was luminescent in Gilmore Girls, mind-blowing in Bridesmaids, and she won an Emmy for Mike & Molly–the reason I watched the show in the first place. She remains the best part of this show by far, and even from the first I can see why she won. McCarthy gives it all; she’s adorable, happy, willing to go crazy far with her jokes, and imbued with pitch-perfect comic timing. I’m happy that she’s had her chance, stepping up from the supporting roles and taking the lead.
Billy Gardell is new to me, but he can go toe-to-toe with McCarthy just fine–though let’s face it, she’s still head-and-shoulders above the rest of the cast. Gardell does a great job of selling a man who is trying to change himself for the better, not just because he likes a lady who’s making him change, like so many sitcoms today. Furthermore, he distances himself from the absolutely hyperbolic Kevin James–though he’s burdened with the same jokes. He’s honest and a pleasure to watch.
So, with a solid premise and two good leads, what’s wrong here? Everything else.
The supporting cast (who here I should call the dragging cast) is filled with overacting boobs who are simply trying to match what their leads are giving them. They are all buffoonish and can be done away with summarily in order to streamline the real relationship between the leads. Molly’s mother and sister are absolutely ridiculous and nearly unwatchable. They both completely overreach to the point of making me cringe. Reno Wilson plays Officer Carl, Mike’s partner, who is relatively more watchable, but he overacts as well in every aspect. Nyambi Nyambi is the best of the supporting cast, with a great dry with and sarcasm, yet I know exactly what he’s going to say before he says it–except when he began to quote Shakespeare, which was a nice surprise and change of pace. Even the tried and true directorial talents of the brilliant James Burrows can’t save them–though it does make me wonder where the show would be if he, McCarthy, and Gardell weren’t holding it above water.
Now, it’s not fair to simply cast aspersions on the actors, because they do what they can with the material given. Again, the solid premise is left unfulfilled by the writers who rest on their laurels with standard go-to jokes episode in and episode out. Oddly, the overweight jokes aren’t excessive as I expected, it’s everything else: Carl lives with his grandmother, Molly’s sister is a druggie former prom queen who picks bad guys and then flips out, Carl lives with his grandmother, Molly’s mom is a drunk who freaks out at everything, and by the way, did I mention that Carl lives with his grandmother? He can’t be in a scene without that one being mentioned.
This show would be excellent without the excess baggage found in the supporting cast with boring writing. I would watch McCarthy and Gardell by themselves all day long. I’ll watch for awhile longer just to watch those two, because I want to like it, I want to see a successful show about a burgeoning relationship that’s got great heart. This has that; I just wish we weren’t burdened with all the rest.