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Mike & Molly -- TV Review

The Bottom Line

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Three things that will come as no surprise to viewers who tune into CBS' new sitcom "Mike & Molly": It is about two overweight people looking for love; Chuck Lorre is attached as an executive producer, but it comes from the mind of Mark Roberts (of "Two and a Half Men," also a Lorre creation); and fat jokes are served up as fast as McDonald's hamburgers.

The thing is, those jokes have about as much flavor as those burgers. Chicago cop Mike (Billy Gardell) and teacher Molly (Melissa McCarthy) are heavy-set folks trying to lose weight, but in classic sitcom style, they have wacky crosses to bear: Mike's partner Carl (Reno Wilson) has no verbal filter and keeps trying to set him up; Molly's mom (Swoosie Kurtz) chows down on homemade cake while pneumatic, pot-smoking sis Victoria (Katy Mixon) supports Molly at Overeaters Anonymous by disappearing to smoke "a fattie." (Insert joke here.) The titular pair meet awkward (not cute), as if they hadn't been let out of the house since they were 14 at an OA meeting, and smile a lot as Mike works up the nerve to ask Molly out. Cue credits.

Lorre has built a kingdom out of showcasing lovable losers: the barely functional men of "Men," the nerds of "The Big Bang Theory" and now "Mike & Molly." All originate in fertile ground for fun-making (Carl says embracing Mike is like "hugging a futon") and are bottomless wells of a certain kind of comedy. But his earlier efforts have underscored the humanity in the social outcast; here, the mix of schadenfreude and reductionism coming from the writers makes "Mike & Molly" cold and calculating, despite its likable leads and cast.

There was the hope that a show that bucks convention by starring two people who approximate the appearance of a vast number of Americans wouldn't merely feature fat setups followed by fat pratfalls (note: A broken finger from such a tumble is more Tarantino than sitcom). Alas, such is not to be. Mike's last name is Biggs, after all.

There is no third dimension in personality here, only in body size.

Airdate: 9:30-10 p.m. Monday, Sept. 20 (CBS)
Production: Bonanza Prods., Chuck Lorre Prods., Warner Bros. Television
Cast: Billy Gardell, Melissa McCarthy, Reno Wilson, Katy Mixon, Nyambi Nyambi, Swoosie Kurtz
Executive producers: Chuck Lorre, Mark Roberts
Creator-writer: Mark Roberts
Producers: Mike Collier, Peter Chakos
Director: James Burrows
Director of photography: Steven V. Silver
Production designer: John Shaffner
Costume designer: Mary T. Quigley
Casting: Nikki Valko, Ken Miller