Everyone already knew you don't need to be skinny to find true love. The question was, when this series premiered in 2010, can a pair of obese lovers find an audience?
The answer is yes. Mike & Molly, yet another CBS sitcom from superproducer Chuck Lorre, has turned into a supersized hit.
The show centers around hefty policeman Mike Biggs and his (after a while) wife, plump teacher Molly Flynn-Biggs. In the beginning, when the two were just dating, their struggles with weight were primary plot points and almost the only joke. In the pilot, for instance, Mike's patrol partner, Carl, suggests attracting Molly with a "taffy apple" and, in a later episode, tells Mike to stick a reminder on his "eating hand" so he'll be sure to see it.
"Always play the fat card, huh?" Mike asks.
"I play the hand I'm dealt," Carl says.
Thanks largely to its likable leads, the sitcom has (mostly) outgrown its unhealthy reliance on fat jokes, some of which were (and still are, when they come up) gently self-deprecating, some downright mean. Melissa McCarthy, who plays sweet-hearted Molly, was the surprise winner of an Emmy in 2011, and both have given added dimension to their one-time flyweight characters.
Mike and Molly feel like real people now—not simply plus-sized mannequins for a one-note nudge-nudge. Audiences are more prone to laugh with them than at them—a key difference from where the show started. They truly love each other and—here's a stunner—work hard at keeping their love alive and marriage magical. And for those of us who sometimes eat that extra piece of pie against our better intentions, the series gives us a couple of characters we can relate to.
Does that mean things have outright improved? Um, no. While Mike & Molly is perhaps Lorre's sweetest, most genuine comedy, that's not saying much for the sitcom generator who gave us the crassfest that is Two and a Half Men.
A short litany of overindulgence: Molly's sister, Victoria, seems perpetually stoned. Peggy, Mike's "born again" mother, may be the rudest, most inappropriate character on the series—a Charlie Harper with a Bible on her nightstand instead of condoms in his drawer. Episodes ravenously consume a steady diet of sexual innuendo, toilet humor, vaguely racist one-liners and faith-demeaning asides.
"To Have and Withhold"
After receiving an advance to write a raunchy novel (which she naturally blew on a muscle car), Molly finds herself plagued by writer's block. Carl advises Mike to withhold sex so that all of Molly's repressed energy will wind up on the page.
Sex jokes and double entendres zip across the screen, ranging from Mike and Molly's playful married banter to more vulgar allusions to bestiality, erections, masturbation and group sex. When Molly reads aloud a naughty passage, Mike opens a bottle of beer and spews beer froth everywhere. Molly's mother and sister volunteer to tell Molly all their own salacious stories to help fill the book. Victoria has her own collection of erotica and says that it was the Bible that served as a gateway to the world of literary porn for her. She talks about sex and incest in Scripture and says, "That book is chock-full with spilled seed."
Molly and Vince play ring toss with Vince's hemorrhoid pillow, and he gabs about his condition. Molly says her writing voice has the "mouth of a sailor." No surprise that she and others say "h---," "a--" and "b--ch" once or twice each. They misuse God's name a few times as well. Threats of physical violence are made.
"The Princess and the Troll"
Jokes about excess weight, hair growing where it shouldn't, bad breath and overactive sweat glands dominate a sequence in which Molly and Mike set a guy up with a long-overdue date. The girl in this equation quips, "I'm not going to take his virginity because I don't do that anymore." She wears a risqué, cleavage-revealing dress before Molly makes her change … into a dress that still sports lots of cleavage. There's a quip about marijuana.
Conversations about picking up women at a Laundromat revolve around underwear and underwear stains. Mike and Carl worry about being thought of as gay. Mike accuses Carl of "always willing to lend a helping penis." Indeed, Carl stalks suicidal women to "save them" and sleep with them. We learn that he once picked up a "she-male."
Mike and Molly talk about how trying to have a baby changes their sex life. Molly and Victoria watch a natural birth video; Molly says she wants to be pumped "full of drugs and booze." Sexual body parts are reduced to crass expressions. Molly's mom goes out to watch a "dirty" Cirque du Soleil performance, where we're told audiences can see the performers' "junk." Characters say "a‑‑" (twice), "h‑‑‑" (four or five times), "d‑‑n" (once) and misuse God's name a handful of times.
In the run-up to Thanksgiving, Mike falls off his diet wagon and tries to hide his secret from Molly. Friend Harry tries to get him back on the straight and narrow … but in so doing takes him to a gay Overeaters' Anonymous group, where the two masquerade as homosexual lovers hoping to adopt a boy from Africa.
Still, the episode features a nice message about what being part of a loving couple is all about. Molly—who wasn't fooled by Mike's subterfuge—tells him the only thing that hurt her was him not confiding in her. You can tell your partner anything, she says, "and they never stop loving you."
But along the way we hear about how Mike's "black, virile and handsome" police partner wears the New Year's Eve baby "sash and diaper even when no one asks." An allusion also is made to an embarrassing story involving him and a blind girl at church camp. We hear jokes about Peggy's dog licking himself, while other gags center on bulimia, animal feces and marijuana. Characters say "h‑‑‑" and "a‑‑" and misuse God's name. They clutch wine glasses.
"Peggy Gets a Job"
Ever since Mike moved in with Molly, Peggy has felt abandoned. Both Mike and Molly try to ease her loneliness, and one of Mike's suggestions is that she get a job. She does … as a lunch lady at Molly's school. It feels like a disaster to Molly—at least at first. Helping Peggy feel less lonely is one thing, but seeing her every day is quite another. But when Molly learns that Peggy is privy to the school's mountain of gossip—and offers to trade dirt for duality, Molly greedily (and a bit giddily) changes her tune. She even makes an insincere conversion to Christianity to ingratiate herself to her future mom-in-law.
Jokes evoke oral sex, homosexuality, pedophilia, prostitution, infidelity, pubic hair, suicide and animal feces. Crass euphemisms reference parts of the male anatomy. Peggy makes a racist remark and gets flippant about her faith several times as a way to dig up a few more chuckles. An example: "We all have our crosses to bear, but the good Lord has seen fit to make mine out of lead and covered it in fire ants … His will be done." We hear "d‑‑n" and misuses of God's name.
"Carl Is Jealous"
Carl gets jealous of Mike and Molly's relationship (we see the two kiss and cuddle), so the lovers try to hook him up with Victoria, Molly's skinny and oft-stoned sister. But after nearly telling Carl what she will and won't do in the bedroom ("Wait, you actually have 'won't do's?" Molly exclaims), Victoria instead goes home with (an unseen) Michael Jordan. Next thing you know, Molly says Mike "might get lucky" if he comes back to her place, so he makes a beeline for her.
Molly's mother—thinking he's an intruder—knocks him out cold with a frying pan.
Victoria sees Mike and heads to the bathroom to "flush something" and later discusses a time when she was "baked." She and others drink margaritas and beer, and Carl's grandmother says, "If you don't drink on Saturday night, you don't got nothin' to talk to Jesus about on Sunday morning." It's said that Molly's mother wanders around in the nude. Carl, his grandmother alleges, once had sexual relations with a vacuum. Characters make crass allusions to male body parts and say "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and "d‑‑n." They also misuse God's name.