When I talk about championing diversity on television, I’m not limiting myself to people of color, but just any group of people who don’t fit the mold of what’s shown on TV.
So it’s great that CBS is debuting a comedy this fall about a charming plus-sized couple called Mike & Molly. Less great is how much the show’s trailer emphasizes the characters’ sizes and their “big” issues (watch below). It’s a 3-minute clip that emphasizes dieting, weight scales, treadmills, and meeting cute at Overeaters Anonymous; a particularly groan-worthy moment is when Mike is compared to a futon. The preview screams, “Hey everyone, look at how progressive we are! We have a show about people that aren’t skinny!” The focus is so grating that it feels like CBS picked up the show solely for its gimmick. It’s hard to tell if the show’s actually any good, because it’s too busy zinging viewers with what seems like every fat joke from the pilot.
The last show I can remember that had a non-skinny couple at its center was Roseanne. The Conners were so believable as a couple who not just loved each other, but had the hots for each other, and while there were jokes a plenty about their weight, I never remember thinking that Roseanne was a show about fat people. Dan and Roseanne never let their size completely define them, to themselves or each other.
I can’t imagine why Mike & Molly can’t be the same way. The lead actors have a nice chemistry (Melissa McCarthy from Gilmore Girls and Samantha Who? has long deserved her own vehicle) and are funny too, but at this point it’s hard to imagine whether CBS will let the show transcend its punny premise. (The network’s promo monkeys no doubt have a long list of slogans and catchphrases they’re waiting to deploy, using words like “big”, “heavy” and “weighty”.)
Over on ABC Family, the teen dramedy Huge is getting positive buzz for showcasing overweight teens in an engaging and realistic matter without focusing only on their weight. That show indicates that it’s possible to start with a hooky premise and evolve into something much more nuanced and interesting. Let’s hope Mike & Molly can defy CBS execs and do the same.