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Mike & Molly

Show has an inherent sweetness; the cautionary flag would be a penchant for cheap fat jokes.

With:
Officer Mike Biggs - Billy Gardell Molly Flynn - Melissa McCarthy Officer Carl McMillan - Reno Wilson Victoria - Katy Mixon Samuel - Nyambi Nyambi Joyce - Swoosie Kurtz

Producer Chuck Lorre’s streak of good fortune has to run out sooner or later — and lord knows, he’s probably thinking the same thing — but if there’s justice, it won’t be with “Mike & Molly.” Not as blue as “Two and a Half Men” or as clever as “The Big Bang Theory,” this romantic comedy about two overweight people who meet at an overeaters-support group ought to speak to a large segment of America’s, er, large population. Thanks to Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy, the show has an inherent sweetness; the cautionary flag would be a penchant for cheap fat jokes.

Gardell’s Mike Biggs (we’ll let the name slide) is a Chicago cop, whose smart-ass partner (Reno Wilson) keeps prodding him to get some semblance of a life. McCarthy’s Molly is a schoolteacher with a thin, promiscuous, pot-smoking sister (Katy Mixon) and a doting mom (Swoosie Kurtz) who keeps insisting her daughter is merely “big boned.”

The title characters meet-cute at Overeaters Anonymous, where their confessions are craftily presented as a kind of standup act. But Mike doesn’t pull the trigger on asking Molly out, requiring a little additional happenstance from series creator Mark Roberts to bring them together, which takes some doing in a half-hour pilot.

Although the “fat is beautiful” movement hasn’t exactly swept TV, the corpulent classes have made modest inroads beyond just being screamed at on “The Biggest Loser,” including ABC Family’s summer series “Huge.” Their struggles and humanity would seem to be fertile territory, if only because so many modern-day Americans have lost their own battle of the bulge.

Of course, “Mike & Molly” clearly wants to have its cake and eat it — presenting its characters as worthy objects of affection while still making them the butt of Henny Youngman-type barbs, such as when Mike’s partner teases him about lacking “enough chalk to outline your body.”

For the most part, though, the program’s tone is reasonably gentle, and the two leads brings a necessary vulnerability to their roles that should have viewers rooting for them. (The supporting cast is on less secure footing, but hopefully they’ll grow on us.)

Despite Charlie Sheen’s offscreen peccadilloes (how many times can one guy’s car wind up at the foot of a canyon?), “Men” should set the table nicely for “Mike & Molly,” providing Lorre’s latest sitcom a hefty lead-in. While no one should expect “Big Bang”-type audience retention, there’s enough comedy content in this first seating to warrant keeping “Mike & Molly” on the TiVo menu, even if it’s not quite love at first bite.

Popular on Variety

Mike & Molly

CBS, Mon. Sept. 20, 9:30 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Chuck Lorre Prods. in association with Warner Bros. Television. Executive producers, Lorre, Mark Roberts; producer, Michael Collier; director, James Burrows; writer, Roberts.

Crew: Camera, Steven V. Silver; production designer, John Shaffner; editor, Peter Chakos; music, Keb Mo; casting, Nikki Valko, Ken Miller. 30 MIN.

Cast: Officer Mike Biggs - Billy Gardell Molly Flynn - Melissa McCarthy Officer Carl McMillan - Reno Wilson Victoria - Katy Mixon Samuel - Nyambi Nyambi Joyce - Swoosie Kurtz

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