Michael Ansell/Warner Bros.
Aly Semigran
October 04, 2011 AT 03:42 PM EDT

Confession time, PopWatchers. Before last night I’d never actually watched an episode of Mike & Molly. I know, I know, it’s inexcusable, especially considering I have been singing the praises of Bridesmaids and Saturday Night Live scene-stealer Melissa McCarthy all week. But after the banner past couple of weeks McCarthy has been having, I decided it was time to check out the show that earned the actress an Emmy for Best Actress in a Comedy.

Turns out, it’s a pretty sitcommy sitcom, complete with a laugh track, stereotypical characters, and problems that get resolved nicely within a half an hour. Still the show has one major redeeming factor. I think you can all pretty much guess what — or rather, who — that is.

For those of you, like me, who were finally swayed into watching Mike & Molly after McCarthy’s top-notch rookie hosting effort on SNL, it was clear within the first few minutes that not only is she a team player in every project, but she’s willing to go the extra mile (and down plenty of steps) for her craft. While McCarthy is a wonderful comedic actress who can do nuance (see: about every episode of Gilmore Girls) she most certainly has a knack for physical comedy, too.

In the show’s opening scene, McCarthy’s Molly struggled to carry a heavy laundry hamper up the flight of stairs at her police-officer boyfriend Mike’s (Billy Gardell) apartment. She called for help after dropping items, but ultimately, took a tumble. While it’s a pretty sitcommy moment, indeed, McCarthy brought it back down to earth with her instantly relatable frustration. (Who hasn’t dropped a sock or pair of underwear after lugging laundry up some stairs and thought, “Eh, not worth it!”?)

Sadly, it was really the only time the show let McCarthy play to her strengths. The rest of the episode moved right along with predictable circumstances and even more predictable outcomes. Molly wanted Mike to move out of his dump of an apartment and in to her house, where she lives with her stoner sister Victoria (Katy Mixon) and her sassy mother (played by fellow sitcom savior Swoosie Kurtz), so that they could save money, but Mike doesn’t want to leave his sweet bachelor pad behind. And by sweet, I mean it has a stove with a single functioning burner.

Mike and his pal/work buddy, Carl (Reno Wilson), worried that if he lived with Molly, he’d “lose home field advantage,” which I’m guessing would cause him to lose his manhood and force him to speak only in sports analogies. Meanwhile, Molly and her female cohorts made the sweeping generalization that if men are clean, they are either gay or married. It’s like they’re from different planets, men and women!

Meanwhile, Mike’s mother Peggy (who, for no discernible reason other than being an overbearing sitcom mom, hates Molly) had a birthday party for her sweet, but long-suffering boyfriend. And what a party! Molly baked a lemon cake, Mike was sent to help pick up a “hot Tootsie Roll” (that’s sitcom speak for dog poop), and Peggy (Rondi Reed) confided in Molly that she planned to get secular with her man, graphically going into details about her 30-year dry spell. (There’s a groan button on laugh tracks, isn’t there?)

But things went from bad to worse when Peggy got into bed only to find her beloved had croaked. Rather than admit he died in anticipation of their lovemaking, Peggy dragged him downstairs and propped him up at the dinner table, Weekend at Bernie’s-style. After Mike and Carl assessed the scene, complete with Law & Order-like zingers (“Did you notice anything weird about the body? Besides the $9 hair cut…”), Mike realized he doesn’t want to die alone with nothing more than a piece of lemon cake in front of him. Case closed!

It’s hard to judge an entire series off of just one show, but if this episode of Mike & Molly was its very own “The Suitcase,” they could be in trouble. From the sight gags (Peggy’s pooch licked her recently deceased boyfriend’s face) to its uncomfortable attempts at being boundary-pushing (“feral cat gang bang,” “pube fest,” and “itchy anal glands” were just some of the choice phrases), it’s hardly the best showcase for McCarthy.

After all, it was McCarthy who did all the heavy lifting, thanks to her impeccable delivery of even the most standard lines (“She’s upstairs, sleeping like a big, mean baby”) and her uncanny ability to have chemistry with anyone. After all, a strong female lead can often elevate a sitcommy sitcom to a whole other level (i.e. Patricia Richardson in Home Improvement) and she’s entirely capable of that here.

I can also understand why fans are getting attached to the show, despite its shortcomings. The two main characters make for a cute, and by sitcom standards, unconventional couple. (In sitcom world, every Average Joe inevitably land a model-hot wife or girlfriend. See: According to Jim, every other sitcom ever.) Since they’re not married, viewers will get to watch their relationship evolve, unlike, say the similarly-vibed King of Queens. By getting invested with Mike & Molly, you’ll get to see the inevitable engagement, wedding, babies, and all the wacky antics that will ensue throughout. But is it worth sitting through all the mediocre comedy in the meantime?

While I didn’t love Mike & Molly (which is sitting in the prime post-Two and a Half Men slot at 9:30 p.m.), it still doesn’t change my feelings about McCarthy. Her sitcom may not be worthy of her talents, but she does here what she does with everything else: She goes above and beyond the call of comedic duty.

Did you turn in for the first time to Mike & Molly, too, PopWatchers? Was it because of Saturday Night Live, Bridesmaids, or Melissa McCarthy’s Emmy win? If it was your first viewing, too, what did you think? Was I too harsh on the show? Should I give it another try? Share in the comments section below!

Read more:

Melissa McCarthy’s EW Pop Culture Personality Test

‘Mike & Molly’ season premiere review: Is this show worthy of Melissa McCarthy and an Emmy?

Melissa McCarthy’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ pulls in impressive ratings: Is she your dream cast member?

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