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The Only Thing Offensive About 'Mike & Molly' Is the Fat Jokes

by Joel Keller, posted Oct 27th 2010 4:35PM
Mike and MollyMonday marks the fifth anniversary of my first post here on TV Squad. That's an eternity in this business, and in that time I've seen everything with regards to discourse on the interwebs.

One of the things I've learned is that just about once per month, like clockwork, something written online sparks a crapstorm of controversy and brings out a ton of anonymous jerkwaddery.

This month's victim is Maura Kelly, who wrote about the CBS show 'Mike & Molly' for her dating blog on Marie Claire's website. The post had the unfortunate title "Should 'Fatties' Get a Room? (Even on TV?)," and in it she expressed displeasure at the prospect of seeing two plus-sized actors make out on television. The 1000-plus comments on the post (and her subsequent posts) are mostly vitriolic, calling for her firing and warning her new boyfriend that he will get dumped if he gains any weight.

But these readers are misdirecting their anger. They should be sending their venom towards producer Chuck Lorre and CBS honcho Les Moonves, because, really, the only thing offensive about 'Mike & Molly' isn't the sight of Melissa McCarthy and Billy Gardell making out. It's the fat jokes, plain and simple.

My offense at the show's fat jokes don't stem from any kind of sense of human decency or a show of support to those that are fighting the weight battle -- even though I'm a bit rotund myself. No, my stance comes purely as a fan of good comedy.

Lorre and his co-creator, Mark Roberts, have on their hands a fantastic love story, about two people who have found each other after searching for love for a long time, two people who are trying to improve themselves while negotiating a new relationship. There should be plenty of humor in that all by itself.

Sure, there can be jokes about the two of them being overweight; in comedy, no physical attribute of an actor or character should be off limits. 'M*A*S*H' made jokes about Mike Farrell's big feet; 'Taxi' had more than its share of Danny DeVito-targeted short jokes. But these jokes were selective and came out the situation or what the character was feeling at the time.

But Lorre doesn't do that. If there's a cheap joke, he'll go for it, which has always been the Achilles' heel in his sitcoms. I had thought that after a pilot full of collapsing tables and cracks about the folks at OA, the fat jokes would ease off as the writers found the dynamics of the story between Mike and Molly. Even Lorre and Roberts mentioned that the story of the couple would drive the show.

But, even as the chemistry between Gardell and McCarthy blossoms, the number of cheap weight jokes stays pretty constant, mostly via Mike's wise-ass partner Carl (Reno Wilson), Molly's cruel harridan of a mother (Swoozie Kurtz), and Samuel from the diner (Nyambi Nyambi), whose only function seems to be to make a comment about what Mike is eating (or not eating) that day.

As for Kelly's article... she needs to be let off the hook. Sure, the easy-breezy tone she used in the post, along with the paragraph that offered the same weight-loss advice you can find in a million women's magazines, made her look insensitive. But she apologized profusely, admitting that her issues with seeing obese people may stem from issues she has faced in her life. If she had approached the topic from that angle to begin with, she may have caught a lot less flak.

Anyway, I've seen the scenes where Mike and Molly kiss, and they're adorable. But then again, I've been a McCarthy fan since she started playing Sookie on 'Gilmore Girls,' so maybe I'm a bit biased there.

What do you think of the comedy on 'Mike & Molly?' Are the fat jokes necessary?

(Follow @joelkeller on Twitter.)

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Pai Mei

Its a sitcom about two fat people. The jokes are part of it! In Family Ties "Alex" made fun of his parents political views and his sister's intelligence because that was the his character was. Same thing here!!! Stop bitching about everything!!

October 31 2011 at 6:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A stupid network sitcom, with fat people. Network comedies are just so pathetic. Modern Family is only a bit better because they are not so formulaic. But this? Idiocy. And, sorry, fat people aren't role models. There IS something wrong with being unhealthily obese, I don't get why it's nonPC to say so. Fat people know it too, they just hate hearing it. There is NOTHING funny about being too lazy and unmotivated to stop eating so much and start exercising. If you can't, you lack willpower, plain and simple. Go ahead and blame something or someone else, it won't help you to live longer and be healthier, only willpower and getting it done will.

October 09 2011 at 8:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I watched the first episode of Mike and Molly and never watched another because the fat jokes were way overdone and quite lame. Most fat people learn to use self-deprecation at a young age because if you beat others to it, they don't have anything left to say. However the fat jokes on this show are tired and aren't anything that any fat person hasn't heard before or used themselves. I don't want to spend a half hour of my time hearing the same things over and over again. Get some original content, Chuck Lorre! This show just isn't funny, which is too bad, because in the hands of better writers it could be something quite original.

October 31 2010 at 9:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yo joel why are you going after chuck lorre!?!?!

The show is written by fat ppl!?! did you not get that?

There is nothing offensive in the show, the humour might be a little dull sometimes but the overall dynamic of the show is charming.

And as for that POS @ marie claire let her rot in her selfinflicted lonliness and self hatred.

Fact is, deep down she is a chunky girl and no ammount of self harm and starvation will ever make her happy LOL

Chuck Lorre and plus size acceptance FTW

October 29 2010 at 2:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yeah, I grow tired of this fat jokes are bad thinking. I know gland and health conditions can lead to obesity and for those individuals, I do feel a sense of shame that they are lumped in with fat jokes.

But I feel no remorse for people who eat, sloth, and lazy themselves to obesity. I'm not some skinny, anti-fat, superficial person but I certainly think that just because someone is grossly overweight (and no one's talking about slightly overweight), they either need to seek the help they need to control their eating or stop complaining that they are the butt of jokes. For many, it's lifestyle choices that lead to obesity so I feel no remorse in laughing at jokes aimed at such people. Maybe that's not PC but it's time to stop being so PC.

October 28 2010 at 4:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I myself am an overweight person and I think the jokes are hilarious! In fact, they actually make me feel better about myself in many ways.

What people seem to have missed is the fact that although Carl, Molly's family and Samuel make constant fun of their weight, the characters aren't doing it to be malicious or cruel, they are just having a laugh. And the characters of Mike and Molly don't mind because they know that whatever these people are saying they care about them and don't mean any of it in a hurtful way.

The reason it makes me feel better about myself is that although they are teased, deep down these characters are accepted by their friends for who they are and are loved despite being overweight. And everytime they say a bad joke its them expressing that they really don't care what they look like. I make fun of my weight sometimes, and my friends laugh becasue we both know it doesn't matter.

Doing a show like this and not taking every opportunity to make light of the fact these characters are overweight is literally like ignoring the elephant in the room (no pun intended).

October 28 2010 at 2:35 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Bob Hitchcock

'The Only Thing Offensive About 'Mike & Molly' Is the Fat Jokes' It's a plural, so it's ARE the fat jokes.
Illiterate writer?

October 28 2010 at 2:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bob Hitchcock's comment
Joel Keller

"The only thing" is singlular. Think about this sentence. "The only thing that's offensive about the show is the title." If that is the wrong form, I will gladly fix the title of the post.

October 29 2010 at 2:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Have you watched the show?
The fat jokes only serve to show the shallow, ugly nature of the other characters. The partner cop who seems to have it together, but lives at home with him grandmother. The "hot" sister, who is usually a drunken mess.

Should we be offended on behalf of single guys living with grandmothers? Middle aged women who can't keep a man?

The whole point is that Mike & Molly are the ones that have it figured out, despite the fact that their overweight and the world around them judges them for it.

October 28 2010 at 1:27 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The blog problem yesterday and today. I believe this is nothing more than a form of discrimination and bullying. Anyone who singles out people for the way they look is a form of discrimination. It is no different than if someone discriminated against race, religion, or color. The majority of our society is overweight. It is good to see people on television that are not a perfect model or have all of the perfect characteristics. I believe that much of television tries to paint overweight people as a problem in society. That is why they have to put them on television like circus animals and eat what someone tells them too, exercise like they are going to die if they don't complete the task, and treat them like they are these freaks because they are overweight. I have known just as many people die who are skinny as are overweight. All of us are going to die one day skinny or fat. Society tries to say if you are overwieght you are doomed. I believe this is a way for producers to say we don't want to see fat people we want gorgeous people who have no flaws and paint a very phony picture of America. Get real this is DISCRIMINATION!!!

October 28 2010 at 9:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a fairly overweight bloke myself, I love this show. The 2 of them are so sweet.

As for the number of fat jokes : I have to disagree. There is no problem with the jokes of the show. Mike's mates take all the same cracks at him that those of us that are overwieght cop all the time.

I believe the context in which they are made makes the viewer sympathetic to the characters and my wife has been known to say "oh c'mon guys, give them a break" in response to some of Carl and Samuel's comments.

As for Maura Kelly's blog. It IS offensive. It wasn't tongue in cheek, it wasn't constructive and it wasn't decent critical comment. It was nothing but undisguised school yard level bigotry against a particular societal group.

I know exactly where my anger is directed and it isn't towards the show.



October 28 2010 at 6:23 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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