Molly

If you think upcoming CBS sitcom “Mike and Molly” is about fat people, you’re on thin ice.

“This may sound ridiculous to some of you,” exec producer Chuck Lorre said at the series’ Television Critics Assn. panel today, “but this isn’t a show about weight. This is a show about people trying to make their lives better and find someone that they can have a committed relationship with. And it’s an ensemble show … (Weight) is not enough to make a series on.”

Instead, the show is Old School multicam sitcom at its simplest (and, hopefully, funniest). “Marty” and “The Honeymooners” were cited as influences.

“It’s about real people with real issues trying to have a relationship,” Lorre said. “Television would normally have cast Chris O’Donnell and Courteney Cox as the people who meet at Overeaters Anonymous. In this case, (we) had the courage and the wisdom to cast people as just people. It may be odd for television, but I hope it’s reflective of some kind of reality.”

Added creator and exec producer Mark Roberts: “It’s just a show about people with problems. The reason I wanted to do a show was to get real people back on TV. Most of the stuff on TV seems pretty unrealistic to me. … I don’t buy any of their problems.”

Series leads Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy echoed the point, and while humor is their principal goal, a little bit of helping people in the audience feel better about themselves wouldn’t be a bad byproduct. “I think anytime you see a broad spectrum of people on TV, whatever that is, I think that’s good,” McCarthy said. “To have something more realistic, so people aren’t always (saying): “I can’t be that perfect.” Guess what – no one is. I think any time a show bridges into the real world, I think it takes some pressure off some people.”

Gardell, whose background is mainly standup, tweaked the reporters who treated his girth as the elephant in the room.

“I don’t know, man,” he said. “My wife’s little – and I did better than I should have, and my cholesterol’s better than hers. Of course I’d like to lose some weight. Everyone would like to be better than they are. … I want to try to be a little better, but when you’re not great at coping with your own emotions, you try to push it down with a piece of cake. Some people do it with booze, some people do it with gambling. … But make no mistake – this is a love story.”

And so, the future of “Mike and Molly” – or more precisely, its appeal to viewers  – doesn’t depend at all on the size of its stars. They could gain or lose a hundred pounds, and it wouldn’t matter.

“They go to OA because they’re on a journey,” Lorre said, “because they want to make a change in their lives. That speaks to a lot of people who aren’t satisfied with the status quo in their lives. … These are people who are alive and in process – they’re not at the end of the journey, they’re in the journey – and that’s something we can write about forever.”

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