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TELEVISION REVIEW

Weight played for belly laughs on sitcom ‘Mike & Molly’

By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / September 20, 2010

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Anyone who’s ever eaten a cupcake instead of expressing anger or who tried to diet while surrounded by string beans with high metabolisms will surely relate to the new CBS sitcom “Mike & Molly,’’ premiering tonight at 9:30 on Channel 4.

The show, from “Big Bang Theory’’ and “Two and a Half Men’’ creator Chuck Lorre, centers on characters who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting.

The potential for cringeworthiness is high, and the pilot sometimes falls on the wrong side of the line between self-deprecatingly comic and just plain mean. But there’s a real sweetness to the tentative romance brewing between Mike, the beat cop played by comic Billy Gardell, and Molly, an elementary school teacher (Melissa McCarthy). It helps that both actors, able supporting players in the past — “Gilmore Girls’’ and “Samantha Who’’ for her and “My Name Is Earl’’ for him — are immensely likable and share good chemistry and timing.

Now the challenge is for the writers to locate more of the humanity in the cartoonishly drawn ancillary characters. They’ve got great actors, but the sarcastic waiter (Nyambi Nyambi), the wannabe ladies man cop (Reno Wilson), and the cluelessly cruel mother and sister (a deliciously daffy Katy Mixon and grand Swoosie Kurtz) could use some plumping up.

Here’s hoping “Mike & Molly’’ becomes more than meets the eye.

Sarah Rodman can be reached at srodman@globe.com

MIKE & MOLLY Starring: Billy Gardell, Melissa McCarthy

On: CBS, Ch. 4

Time: Tonight, 9:30-10