It may officially be just a rumor at the moment, but apparently it’s true. CBS is cancelling the once popular sitcom Mike and Molly.
As a bona fide fan of Melissa McCarthy, sitcoms, and TV in general, I should be mourning the demise of a program that brings together these three key sources of personal joy. And yet, I’m celebrating.
Yep. Despite having seen not one single episode and being wholly unqualified to state an opinion as to its entertainment value, I am thrilled to hear that CBS is giving the show the proverbial heave ho!
It hasn’t been widely reported by any of the major news outlets, but I’ve been holding sort of a one-woman boycott of the program since its debut six years ago. No one in my inner circle even knew about it except for two of my friends who have (barely) tolerated my oral dissertations on why I object to the program whenever the topic comes up in conversation.
How can I object to a television program, you might wonder, when I haven’t even seen an episode?
Rest assured, it has nothing to do with its stars. Although some of her more recent films have failed to live up to her talent and my expectations, Melissa McCarthy is a fearless and gifted comedian whom I would happily pay for the privilege of watching her read the phone book. And although I’m less familiar with her costar, Billy Gardell, I’m sure the program would have been cancelled years ago if his work wasn’t up to scratch.
My problem with the program is that both the leading man and leading woman are very overweight.
And what a shameful thing to say. Right? Especially for a woman of MY size.
Believe me, I know how it sounds. So allow me to explain.
You see, the problem isn’t that Melissa McCarthy is overweight. It’s that, because MOLLY is overweight, MIKE had to be overweight as well.
Now I understand that the whole premise of the show is that two overweight people meet cute at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, fall in love, and then spend the new several years humorously trying to avoid pie, cakes, cookies, and so forth. Ha frickin ha.
Never mind the fact sugar addiction is something that plagues millions of people of all sizes from all over the globe. Never mind the fact that sugar and carbohydrates in general aren’t good for you even if they DON’T make you fat.
And never mind that lots of people who go to Overeaters Anonymous are not obese. Or that lots of non-obese people struggle to eat right and be healthy. Or that lots of obese people eat right and exercise but cannot seem to lose weight.
Never mind all that and think about this: The whole show depended on both leads being overweight. In fact, the show never would have gotten the green light from the network if just Molly had been overweight. In fact, I daresay the show never would have been PROPOSED with a male lead who was to be slim rather than husky.
And therein lies the rub. You see, television networks, writers, and producers have no problem with a less than perfect leading man being married to a near-perfect woman. In fact, prime time is rife with shows about men who are shallow, immature, unattractive, overweight, dopey, lazy, or grumpy (cue the Snow White soundtrack now.) And, if the networks, writers, and producers are to be believed, such men have little to no difficulty attracting—and keeping—smart, hard-working, attractive (and apparently tolerant) women. Notable examples include Jim Belushi and Courtney Thorne-Smith from According to Jim, Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton from Everybody Loves Raymond, and Simon Helberg and Melissa Rauch, who play the characters Howard and Bernadette on The Big Bang Theory.
And yet, we’ve yet to see this same scenario in reverse. No, when the star is a plus-size woman or nontraditional beauty, she never has a smart, thin, devoted man as a lover or spouse. Rather, the object of this woman’s affection—if she even has one who loves her back, that is—is always overweight.
Roseanne is but one early example of this phenomenon. Considered groundbreaking for its realistic portrayal of working class life, the show starred the notoriously curvaceous Roseanne Barr as the title character. Roseanne was married to Dan, played by always wonderful John Goodman, who was also overweight.
Like many plus sized FEMALE actors, John Goodman is good looking, talented, and smart, and his character was a decent, hardworking man who adored his wife. So I don’t object to his being Roseanne’s partner and foil. Nor do I object to the casting of Billy Gardell as Melissa McCarthy’s partner on Mike and Molly. He may not be as handsome, charming, or sharp as John Goodman, but as TV actors go, he obviously did well or the show wouldn’t have lasted for six seasons.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t even entirely object to shows where the male lead is married or romantically involved with a woman who is, by cultural standards, out of his league—be it physically, socially, or intellectually. It is often the differences between people that make for the best humor. Fish out of water comedies immediately spring to mind—such as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The Beverly Hillbillies, as do odd couplings, like Dharma and Greg and the characters Jay and Gloria Pritchett (played by Ed O’Neill and Sofia Vergara) on Modern Family. I know I’m dating myself with some of these references, but I’m counting on many of you to be my contemporaries and the rest of you to know how to use Google.
Again, my problem is not with imperfect characters played by imperfect actors. It’s that there are literally no shows—and I invite you to correct me if I’m wrong or simply uninformed—where an overweight female lead is paired with a funny, smart, successful or otherwise awesome man who is buff, cut, or smoking hot.
Although it may come as a surprise to the folks in Hollywood, we plus-size gals do attract wonderful, smart, responsible, funny and often hot men in real life—and many of them happen to love, admire, and even worship us. Just ask Delta Burke. Or Adele. Or Melissa McCarthy!
So I ask: If it can happen in real life, why not on TV? Or the movies? Or at least a few commercials? Seems to me that modern sitcoms should reflect reality. Like the biracial family in that Cheerios ad that got everyone so pissed off a few years ago, it’s an idea whose time has come.
And how’s this for groundbreaking? Let’s not make the show about weight or the need to lose it. And let’s not have the main characters meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting.
Instead, let’s make it about all the same things sitcoms are normally made about, but with a star who just happens to have curves. Imagine Friends if Monica was still fat but had great hair, an amazing job, and an awesomely funny boyfriend. Or The Big Bang Theory set in a parallel universe in which the love interest is a plus-size actress and instead of making jokes about Howard’s mom’s weight and facial hair, they talk about how gorgeous Mrs. Wolowitz is and hassle one another about how stupid they act when she’s around.
Because I’m tired of the old formula. Tired of all the TV characters who USED to be fat just so the writers can mine photos and videos of their “former” selves for cheap laughs. And especially tired of shows that perpetuate the myths that fat people are miserable and sexless; that we are only attractive to other fat people; that we are lazy and undisciplined; and that you can’t be happy or successful unless you’re thin.
So get it together, Hollywood. Because if the former Al Bundy can get the bodacious Sofia Vergara, then certainly someone as awesome as Melissa McCarthy can get the delicious Matthew McConaughey. And if that lovable weasel Barney from How I Met Your Mother can land a beautiful woman every week for 9 years, then certainly his plus-size female equivalent could manage to land a few gorgeous men (or women!) on some other show. Rebel Wilson, if you’re reading this, have your people call my people.
In the meantime, I’m sorry for the fans who are losing Mike and Molly. You can blame me and my one-woman boycott if you like. Even if it means Melissa McCarthy and I never become best friends, putting an end to that show would be one of my finest achievements.