Mike & Molly - “Goin’ Fishin’”

Mike & Molly - “Goin’ Fishin’”

What was once a show about blue collar fat people embracing who they are by day and trying to squeeze through doorways by night is now your garden variety marital comedy. The only thing missing is the closing tag where Molly gets on stage and tells an audience about her wacky relatives and future in-laws. Not that Mike & Molly ever had much to say, but the potential was there, and it was capable of some momentary pathos before the closing zinger. It was deep only relative to its far shriller neighbors in the Chuck Lorre-verse—a frozen wasteland where angry people are trapped in suspended animation long past going off the air, if Dharma and Greg are any indication—but at least it had that premise to fall back on, an honest-to-goodness struggle for its characters. Now it seems poised to spend years mired in the deathless dilemmas of lovers who don’t always see exactly eye to eye.

Exhibit A: The Season 2 premiere, “Goin’ Fishin’,” in which Mike & Molly run smack dab into an insurmountable obstacle. Molly wants to start planning their wedding, but Mike wants to go fishing with his buddies this weekend. WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO DO?! “We’ve only been engaged for 24 hours, and she’s trying to fit me for a tux,” he tells a friend. Shockingly, this doesn’t plagiarize Home Improvement yet. It’s not until a drowsy Mike thoughtlessly refers to wedding planning as “nonsense” that Molly gets upset, all to the “No, he di’n’t!” style gawking of the held over Jerry Springer audience. What brings him back into the forgiving arms of his beloved, despite neither of them doing anything all that transgressive? A picture of Molly at yoga practice with a hot trainer (sensei?). Did y’all know that yoga with a partner looks like the kama sutra’s greatest hits? Hilarious! Of course, Dim Husband and Always Correct Wife is a conceit that anchors Emmy’s Best Comedy for two years running, so maybe this show is doing the smart thing after all.

Speaking of Emmys, it’s not hard to see why Melissa McCarthy won for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy (although last year the award went to Edie Falco for managing to make it through Nurse Jackie without her eyes rolling out of her head, so logic may not be warranted). Whereas Amy Poehler, say, is a stellar part of a stellar ensemble, Mike & Molly has one three-dimensional character playing opposite cartoons. Next to her party girl sister or her boozy broad mother or the Senegalese waiter who once spent time in the gay tent of a refugee camp (to give you a sense of how far this show will walk for a joke), McCarthy absolutely shines. Even Mike is stuck playing dim and dry all the time. Molly gets to be dry when she’s trying to make a point, momentarily serious in conversations with her fiance, and as bawdy as the next CBS gal, which considering 2 Broke Girls and The Good Wife is saying a lot.

Unfortunately, Molly is not nearly enough to keep this sitcom afloat—and speaking of floating and fat jokes, Mike singleassedly sinks a boat in this episode, just so new viewers know what they’re getting into. Which could be funny, but the show tries to walk some sort of line between having a good laugh about its characters’ insecurities and political correctness, which isn’t a line but a negative space of maximum awkwardness. It’s like Leslie Knope making a Jerry joke and then pretending like that’s the last one, unless somebody has a really good one. It’s not a point of view; it’s the anything-for-a-laugh mantra that runs the Lorre-verse.

Laughs wouldn’t be such a bad thing, though, considering how empty the show’s become. Here we’re subjected to a dash of “women are like this and men are like this” and a pinch of “that is such a Joyce thing to do.” Since Mike and Molly give lip service to their diet, it’s possible that the writers intend to continue exploring their identity issues (by which I mean Mike wanting to lose weight and Molly wanting to accept who she is) or even ground them in a real economy (he being a cop and she being a teacher). But as a taste of things to come, “Goin’ Fishin’” makes Mike & Molly looks a lot more like reheated sitcoms that weren’t funny the first time than a unique, resonant spin on classic tropes.

Stray observations:

  • It’s nice to see a show, especially one produced by Chuck Lorre, where family members actually love and support one another.
  • My fifth grade teacher was Mrs. Biggs. I don't blame Molly for sticking with Flynn.
  • McCarthy's subdued take on "...You sunk a boat?" saves the entire bit. It is a fat joke, but she's so gentle with it that Mike doesn't feel like the butt of it.