Call me a stick in the mud or even downright snooty, but I've never been a tremendous fan of the modern sitcom. For me, most of them continue to follow a formula that worked decades ago solely due to writing staffs that didn't feel the need to pander to viewers; combine that with often undeserved reputation that television is beneath quality actors and you get merely satisfying, mediocre entertainment as a result. Enter "Mike and Molly" three years ago, the brainchild of Mark Roberts a former writer on "Two and a Half Men" (an admittedly novel concept of a sitcom that was actually better than average for its first two, maybe three years before eventually acting as the catalyst in Charlie Sheen's now legendary meltdown). "Mike and Molly" on paper at least was something we'd seen a thousand times before: two somewhat socially inept people meet each other and a relationship appears on the horizon. For its first season, the series received a lot of deserved flak for playing up the "gimmick" of the show, namely its characters were considerably overweight. Fortunately, the show began to steer in another direction and when it returned a year, was actually quite entertaining, by mainstream, lowest common denominator standards. Then the third season happened…
Sadly, the third season of "Mike and Molly" validates many criticisms of sitcoms trying to do nothing more but make the old formula work and the blame is firmly on the shoulders of the writing staff, because if there's one thing that makes this wholly bland junior season work, it's the cast. "Mike and Molly" was honestly, the thing that made me see that Melissa McCarthy is funny, in the right role; I still contest her big screen offerings have presented her as generally obnoxious. Paired with Billy Gardell, the two make the titular couple work, with genuine on-screen chemistry that made the choice to marry the two characters by the end of the second season work as well as it did. It's that choice in show direction though that leaves season three with little to work with. In most sitcoms, the marriage of two characters, set-up in the pilot, would likely happen maybe three or four years in, but the writing staff instead chose to situate each season around a big relationship event; season one gets a proposal, season two, the big ceremony. Season three opens with the cliché of the honeymoon ending (complete with an awful TV rendering of a Paris hotel room) and the return to normalcy on the map. The result is a season that tries nothing new and lumbers to non-finish.
The supporting cast are by the very definition caricatures, from Molly's alcoholic mother Joyce (played brilliantly by Swoosie Kurtz) and stoner sister Victoria (the highly underutilized Katy Mixon) to Mike's surly mother Peggy (Rondi Reed) and grandma's boy partner Carl (Reno Wilson). In season three they are no different with early episodes merely expanding on "plotlines" established towards the latter half of season two. The obvious jokes and predictable boorish behavior exhibited by all was ok when the story was building on the growing love of Mike and Molly, but when the writers chose to pull the trigger on sealing the deal there, they had the tremendous opportunity to give these wonderful actors more to work with and turn the formula on its head by fleshing out these one-note jokes. Instead we get episodes focused on the continual bickering between Joyce and her on-again, off-again relationship with Vince (Louis Mustillo), which does lead to one of the season's highlights with a gust role by Jon Polito as Vince's brother. The remainder of the season continues the sad plight of lonely Carl and dopey Victoria, only offering viewers a meager bone in the form of Gerald McRaney as Mike's boss and season-long love interest for Peggy.
I earnestly wanted to enjoy the third season of "Mike and Molly" for what I was expecting it to be, but it failed to not only merely keep up the quality of season two, but degenerated into a mediocrity that made the pandering fat jokes of season one feel like a welcome change. There are far, far worse sitcoms out there than "Mike and Molly" but a viewer's time is far too precious to spend on a product that more or less decides to rest on its laurels three years in. The series was not helped by a pre-empted season finale nor will be helped by its creator stepping down before season four. With a 2014 premiere date ahead, instead of the expected fall 2013 date, season three may very well be the beginning of the end for a reasonably successful exercise in formula.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer features a heightened color palette with above average detail. There's a minor amount of compression artifacts and looks close enough to the original HD presentation, that the series being abandoned on Blu-Ray after season one may be frustrating, but ultimately a moot point.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio track is on par with what one would expect from a modern studio sitcom. It's a balanced, never-aggressive mix that more than serves its intended purpose. English SDH subtitles are included.
The only extra is a gag reel.
As I said, "Mike and Molly" was never a series that should have been depended on to tread a new path in the sitcom landscape, but after the breezy pacing of the first two seasons, to the point where story arcs viewers would have expected to wrap-up in the fourth season are long behind us, this third season feels empty. Major fans will find enjoyment, everyone else can do alright with a rental. Recommended.