Doug & Carrie vs. Mike & Molly

I’m typically very late to the game when it comes to television, or film for that matter. I don’t go to the theater anymore and even when a movie is available for streaming, I’m more likely than not to wait until it’s free to watch before I see it.

I didn’t start watching The Big Bang Theory until I happened to catch a few episodes while staying in a hotel at a writer’s conference. When I got home, I started watching them all as reruns.

And it’s the same with The King of Queens and Mike & Molly.

The thing is, I spend a bit of time each day on the sofa with my iPad, scrolling social media or doing word and jigsaw puzzles. I like to have some sound going on around me when I do that. And it’s not like I don’t look up and actually watch a little bit.

So, at some point, I started watching The King of Queens. It might have been after seeing Leah Remini doing something about Scientology that led me to it. I enjoyed the show. It was funny enough. It has that typical dynamic of snotty, bossy woman married to doofus slob of a man, with a narcissistic parent thrown in.

I never really thought much deeper about The King of Queens until I happened upon Mike & Molly. I’d seen a little bit of one episode a long time ago, but I guess it wasn’t on at a time when I would find myself watching it so never saw any more. It was a scene of Molly at the kitchen table with her novel, fretting over how awful it was.

But TV line-ups change and I recently found that M&M was on regularly when I happened to have my butt on the sofa. So, I’ve seen it all now. And I have to say, I love it.

Mike & Molly is basically The King of Queens with nice people.

The King of Queens is about Doug and Carrie, two awful people surrounded by fairly decent people, pestered constantly by an irredeemable narcissist—Carrie’s father played by Jerry Stiller.

Mike & Molly is about two decent, loving people surrounded by sweet quirky characters and one, often redeemed, narcissist, Mike’s mom.

The narcissist is always an in-law, it seems, in family shows. But, of course. It’s the age-old mother-in-law gag which TKoQ thought they were turning on its head by making it a man. I suppose we should thank them for that.

I can’t say I care much at all for Jerry Stiller, who plays Carrie’s father. He doesn’t seem to have had much acting range, but I haven’t seen him in anything beyond Seinfeld, TKoQ, and Zoolander. If I’ve seen him in anything else, I’ve completely forgotten it.

The things Carrie’s father does in TKoQ are horrible and unforgivable. He sabotages Carrie’s college plans. He changes her name as a child by losing it in a poker game and kept it hidden from her. Just really awful, dumb stuff that we’re supposed to laugh at. And he never quite comes around to seeing what an awful person he is. In fact, he is forgiven over and over again, because Carrie loves him.

That’s the thing about narcissists on television. Their children love them, despite them being truly awful, cruel people. I can’t even watch Mom. The mother is a terrible, unapologetic narcissist and it’s played for laughs. It’s not funny. But her daughter sticks with her because…why? Because it’s a show! And it’s supposed to be funny.

But in Mike & Molly, Peggy, played by Rondi Reed, has so many moments of redemption that viewers can come to like her, if not love her. And both Mike and Molly show their anger with her honestly and openly. This is so much more refreshing than what happens on those other shows.

Abusive parenting isn’t funny. Imperfect parenting can be. But a lot of writers are apparently too lazy to write complex characters and instead just go for overused tropes.

There is one major flaw in Mike & Molly, though, and that’s all of the fat jokes made at Mike’s expense. From his friends and from Molly’s family–some even from Molly herself, though hers are not as harsh as the others. The fat jokes aren’t funny and even if they were, it’s just cheap shots for laughs. The show could have redeemed itself had Mike, at some point, said “enough is enough.”

But I can get past the fat jokes simply because, overall, all of the characters are good people. Funny how the writers managed to make great comedy out of that, isn’t it?

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