Good Golly, Mike & Molly

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.


TV and Reality

Despite rumors to the contrary, TV hasn’t changed much in the past 40 years. Oh, you may hear a few words on the tube that viewers were not allowed to hear back in the seventies—like sex, pregnant, and lesbian—but as far as content goes, things are still pretty much the same.

Take the ABC drama Eight is Enough, which was basically a seventies version of Nineteen Kids and Counting only with better hair, cooler clothes, and about half the cast members. If you don’t know what I mean, I suggest you Google some photos of the Duggar clan, do the math, and then see for yourself whether the threads and coiffures worn by the Bradford family don’t somehow look MORE modern despite having been off the air for more than thirty years. In any case, both shows focus on the adventures of a large family, only instead of taking a bus, an RV, or multiple cars to town, the Bradford brood could travel by station wagon.

Not to brag, but my two brothers and I lived in an eight-child family long before the Bradfords made it to the small screen, thanks to our dad’s marriage to our first step mother, who had five kids. Let the record show that neither of my two step brothers looked a thing like Willie Ames or Grant Goodeve, and my two real brothers are still way cuter than Nicholas ever was. And our stepmother, Betty, looked and acted a lot more like Joan Crawford circa 1949 than Abby Bradford circa 1978.

Unlike Mrs. Bradford, who was a teacher, Betty did not work. I don’t know what she did before she became our step mom, but I suspect she would have made a great reality TV personality given her fondness for snapping her fingers and saying “What Betty wants, Betty gets.”

Actually, even back in the seventies, our version of Eight is Enough would have made for great reality TV. We had the rebellious oldest sister Lori, who ran away from home on a regular basis and once took her two sisters with her. And there was Heidi, who once jumped out of a tree and landed on the chainsaw my dad was using a few feet below her.

And if that wouldn’t make for enough drama, our step siblings were often grounded for committing what Betty referred to as ‘Night Raids.’  These heinous crimes, which involved one or more of her kids sneaking out of their bed(s) in the middle of the night and eating cake, cookies, or whatever dessert was left over from the day before, occurred at least weekly, and led to long, drawn out trials and sentences commensurate with how long it took the accused to fess up.

My brothers and I were never tried nor convicted of such atrocities. I’d like to say this was because we had exceptional criminal minds and were smart enough to either avoid detection or frame our step siblings, but the sad truth is that the three of us would sooner have eaten our own flesh than get out of bed without authorization, since doing so for any reason could earn you a lick or two of Betty’s favorite belt and a sentencing enhancement of no dessert for a week.

Like the TV series, our version of Eight is Enough had a short run. In fact, it was bumped out of its time slot by another drama called Johnson vs. Johnson, which did not star Dustin Hoffman or Meryl Streep but was clearly ahead of its time, having predated the critically acclaimed Kramer vs. Kramer by three years.

Not long after Johnson vs. Johnson ended its run, our dad married a woman with three kids, and my brothers and I got our own version of The Brady Bunch. As was the case with Eight is Enough, the Johnson Bunch differed greatly from the Brady Bunch. For example, we had four girls and two boys instead of three boys and three girls. Second, my brothers and I were all blonde and lovely, while our step siblings were all brunettes and wicked. And third, although I have no way of proving it, I’ll bet neither Mrs. Brady nor the person who inspired her ever sang in a honky tonk or raided their children’s piggy banks in order to pay for a bottle of Coffee Brandy.

Fortunately, the Johnson Bunch ran for fewer seasons than did the Brady Bunch. And while it was followed by several seasons of our version of One Day at a Time and Good Times, living in a single-parent home and/or in the projects with just my dad and two brothers was still better in my view than being part of Enough, or a Bunch of anything.