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Friday, September 26, 2014

'Mike and Molly' S4 DVD: 21st Century Domestic Goddess Melissa McCarthy Takes Center Stage

Product Details
The particularly strong "Roseanne" vibe in the 22 episodes in the 2013-14 fourth season of hit CBS sitcom "Mike and Molly," which Warner Home Video is releasing on DVD on September 30 2014, is partially attributable to "Molly" creator/guiding force Chuck Lorre being a writer on the earlier classic show.

On a more general level, allowing Melissa McCarthy (who won a 2012 Emmy for her role as Molly) to take center stage in this season sandwiched between her box office bonanza films "Identity Thief" and "Tammy" evokes thoughts of Desi Arnaz stepping aside to allow Lucille Ball to shine in "I Love Lucy." The point being that, in both cases, the male lead puts macho pride aside in the best interest of the series.

Like virtually every other comedian over the past 60 years, McCarthy is no Lucille Ball but is one of the better comic actresses out there today. Her shining moments in S4 of "Molly" include battling chirping smoke detectors, fighting her way out of a hotel room, and struggling to resist the siren song of a pair of shoes.

The simple premise of "Molly" is that the titular pair is a fairly recently married overweight middle-class couple that struggles both to make it financially and as a couple. Mike Biggs is a Ralph Kramden style beat cop with limited ambition and a corresponding level of ability, and Molly Flynn is a 10-year veteran fourth grade teacher when the fourth season begins.

Much of the humor relates to M & M living with Molly's family. This group consists of the very talented Swoosie Kurtz as Molly's overtly sexual and wine guzzling mother Joyce, Molly's stoner and ditzy sister Victoria, and incredibly crude and dim-witted (but kind-hearted) stepfather Vince.

On Mike's side, his very religious and highly critical mother Peggy is very much in his life. He also spends a great deal of personal time with his neurotic and clingy police partner Carl, who shares an apartment with their buddy Samuel.

The episode guide pamphlet in the DVD set showing the cast in a grid that is very reminiscent of the style of the opening credits of "The Brady Bunch" is either an intentional or unintentional observation that this blended group somehow forms a modern family of equally dysfunctional relatives and friends.

On a similar note, "Molly" deserves a slap on the wrist both for portraying obesity as "cool" and funny and also for generally making fun of harmful addictions. Not being annoying preachy ala "a very special episode" is one thing and constantly laughing off moderate to heavy overeating and abuse of marijuana and wine is another.

In a well-publicized shake-up, "Molly" makes radical changes in the fourth season premiere episode. A hilarious meltdown in the opening scene ends with Molly very abruptly and dramatically quitting her teaching job to pursue a writing career. Several episodes in the season focus on that ambition.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube (and complete with subtitles in an Asian language), of a promo. for "Molly" S4 demonstrates both the focus shift and conscious effort to make the series "extreme."

Aside from both generally breathing new life into the series and providing McCarthy the aforementioned chance to take center stage, the shift seems to reflect the "marriage curse" that can affect a series when the primary couple settles down into a fairly tranquil existence after years of unresolved sexual tension or other conflict. In this case, dealing with Molly's new eccentricities and contending with the loss of a second income strains Mike's tolerance level.

Early escapades include Molly having Carl and a very reluctant Mike take her on a ride along to help inspire a story and Molly and Joyce engaging in a "Rear Window" style comic adventure regarding a neighbor whom they suspect of killing his wife. The latter episode is one the most amusing of the season for reasons that include a hilarious warning system regarding the neighbor approaching while Molly is sneaking around his house.

This season also has two cameo appearances by "Tammy" co-star Susan Sarandon as highly successful (and equally alcoholic/bipolar) novelist J. (Janet?) C. Small. Molly stalking said author after a chance encounter leads to each character getting wrapped up in the wackiness of the life of the other.

Sarandon particularly shines in scenes related to Mike and Carl coming across Small in the course of their work. These segments make one wonder if the contrast between the nutty Small and the relatively stable Mike makes for better humor than pairing her up with the wackier Molly.

The season ends with both the domestic chaos reaching an all-time high and Molly achieving professional success that essentially has Mike concerned about either ultimately losing Molly or effectively becoming Mr. Mike Flynn. All of this sets the stage for potentially good humor (and reduced participation by new film star McCarthy) in the fifth season.

On a final note, the possibility of McCarthy being less visible in the fifth season is reminiscent of Bob Newhart either being totally absent or essentially phoning in a brief appearance throughout most of the final season of "The Bob Newhart Show."

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Molly" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.