Life's hard these days for a traditional network sitcom. CBS' two new fall comedies both attempt to meld that soothing setup-punchlinelaugh- track rhythm with zeitgeisty premises: $#*! My Dad Says comes from the popular profanity-laced Twitter feed in which Justin Halpern documented his elderly father's bons mots, while Mike & Molly chronicles a blossoming relationship forged at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. (Less-than-skinny folks are hot on TV now because of The Biggest Loserand its ilk.) The results are predictably mixed; both shows are better when they drop the desperate bids for relevance and edge.
Dad boasts the bigger problems, directly proportional to its pop cultural baggage. It's TV's first Twitter adaptation, and it snagged no less than William Shatner as its star. Alas, the feed's humor depended on its lack of context, while the show traps Shatner in a sitcom living room with a sitcom son (a laid-off magazine writer so 2010!) and sitcom scripts that struggle to leap from one Twit-quip to the next. Granted, those are funny sometimes: ''We didn't accidentally kill a hooker we had brunch,'' he admonishes son Henry (Jonathan Sadowski) as he fusses about cleaning up. No offense to Sadowski, who does a workmanlike job with what he's given, but I'd rather spend 22 minutes listening to Shatner read the feed.
Mike & Molly fares a bit better, thanks to the admirably game talents at its center, stand-up Billy Gardell and Gilmore Girls' irresistible Melissa McCarthy. As a Chicago cop and a fourth-grade teacher falling in love despite their own insecurities, they make a sweet, relatable team. The fat jokes fly freely here an approach quite different from Lifetime's weight-themed dramedy Drop Dead Diva as when, for instance, Mike's partner implies that he could lure Molly on a date ''with a taffy apple.'' (Ha-ha?) But the comedy also addresses very real issues, whether in the form of Molly's boozy, enabling mother (the always-perfect Swoosie Kurtz) chirping, ''Face it, you're just a big-boned girl,'' or the challenge of choosing first-date attire. ''I don't want my date to open the door and say, 'Hey, Kool-Aid!' '' Mike tells a clothing salesman.
As part of the Eye net's strong Monday comedy lineup, Mike & Molly should settle in nicely (no surprise, since it comes from Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre). Dad has a much tougher time ahead not only in living up to its smart lead-in, Lorre's The Big Bang Theory, but also in living down its premise. $#*! My Dad Says: C Mike & Molly: B