The opening minutes of “Mike & Molly’s” season premiere Monday (Nov. 4) play almost like the beginning of a pilot episode. Which, in a sense, is what “Molly Unleashed” is, because the episode points the show in a somewhat different direction for the future.
CBS has been promoting the show as “the new ‘Mike & Molly'” ever since the network announced its return a few weeks ago (it had initially been scheduled for midseason). While part of that may be (as Alan Sepinwall points out) an attempt to bring fans of Melissa McCarthy‘s movie work to the show, the series is staking out new territory for Molly and for her and Mike’s relationship.
Those opening scenes, where Molly channels years of regret about her career into an ill-considered jump from her classroom window and a long walk in the rain (“I’ve got a baptism thing going here”), can play either as a continuation of Molly’s story, for those who are already fans, or an introduction to the character for the new ones CBS is hoping to bring in. The opening and Molly’s subsequent night out drinking with Victoria and Joyce, let and McCarthy cut a little bit loose. She and Billy Gardell have often been relegated to playing straight and reacting to the outsize characters around them, but here (and in the next two episodes that CBS sent out for review), McCarthy gets the comedy spotlight and runs with it.
The wrinkle in the show’s setup will presumably allow for a lot more Molly-centric comedy this season as well, and given McCarthy’s gifts that is probably a good thing. It could also open up some new avenues for storytelling in the show’s central relationship — Mike is almost unfailingly supportive, but there are bound to be bumps along the way.
The premiere might not have completely sold the idea of a “new” “Mike & Molly,” but it was a pretty solid episode — and one refreshingly light on the show’s cruder aspects — to start the season. Here’s hoping Gardell gets to share more of the comedy wealth as the season continues.
What did you think of the “Mike & Molly” premiere and the new(ish) direction of the show?