Keepin’ It Real With ‘Mike and Molly’

Don’t call Chuck Lorre’s latest CBS multi-cam comedy a show about fat people: “It’s about real people with real problems”

Last Updated: August 5, 2011 @ 3:38 PM

Somehow, Chuck Lorre said, "A show that had Courtney Cox and Chris O'Donnell meeting at Overeaters Anonymous just didn't seem plausible to me."

This fall, from the man who turned divorced men and misanthropic nerds into No. 1 CBS comedies comes Lorre’s latest creation: a show featuring two overweight actors, Melissa McCarthy and Billy Gardell, both at or pushing 40, and both beyond morbidly obese by the tiny standards of network television.

“This show isn’t about weight, it’s about people who are just people, trying to make their lives better,” said Lorre, speaking to TV critics Wednesday at TCA in Beverly Hills. (Lorre was appearing on back-to-back panels, with "Two and a Half Men's" cast appearing just prior.)

“It may be odd for television,” concedes the executive producer who can pretty much get anything on the CBS air he wants after gestating “Two and a Half Men” and “Big Bang Theory” to No. 1 comedy status, “but hopefully, it’s reflective of some kind of reality.”

With “Big Bang” coming off a breakout second year, and moving to Thursday to anchor a new comedy block, “Mike and Molly” will be filling the void on Monday nights for CBS.

To lift the creative weight of a third show, Lorre said he will rely, er, heavily on creator/executive producer Mark Roberts, his right hand for the last several seasons on “Two and a Half Men.”

“Long before there was a script (for ‘Mike and Molly,’) I was betting on Mark,” he said. “I was betting that I could stand on his shoulders and take a bow.”

Like Lorre, Roberts downplayed the myriad questions from critics that all basically amounted to the same query: “Just how do you put overweight actors on television?”

“The reason why I wanted to do show like this is to get real people back on TV,” he said. “Most of the people on TV, their apartments and appearances are too nice. I don’t buy any of their problems.”

Concurred star Melissa McCarthy, who plays title character Molly, a school teacher: “There won’t have me in conversations about teacher’s pay, and then walk out with a Mark Jacobs bag.”

As for the Gardell, a veteran TV character actor and touring stand-up, he seemed somewhat pleasantly shocked to find a co-leading gig.

“When you’re the fat guy in Hollywood, you’re the bad guy, the cop or a neighbor,” said the 40-year-old actor, who has played each of those roles. “I’m humbled to be at this weight and this age in Hollywood and have this job. “It’s like I got the Willie Wonka ticket.”

Previously: Lorre on 'Big Bang' Day Shift: 'We Just Grow the Crops'