Pierce: Melissa McCarthy goes wild on ‘Mike & Molly’

First Published      Last Updated Nov 04 2013 08:46 am

Mike & Molly" rejoins CBS' lineup on Monday (8 p.m., Channel 2), and it's pretty much the same show it was for its first three seasons.

Only better.

It seems that somebody finally noticed that Melissa McCarthy ("Bridesmaids") is a movie star. And they're playing Molly up more in what CBS is calling "the new 'Mike & Molly.' "

And Monday's fourth-season premiere is one of the best episodes to date in a sitcom that's always been kind of just OK. It opens up a lot of new storylines.

"Mike & Molly" is a romantic comedy about a Chicago cop (Billy Gardell) and a schoolteacher (McCarthy). We've seen them meet, fall in love and get married.

They're still in love. But Molly is going through what looks a whole lot like a midlife crisis.

As Monday's episode begins, Molly is handing out standardized tests to her fourth graders.

"Not to put too much pressure on you, but this is the first exam of many that will determine … well, whether you win or lose at life," she says.

And, as she's talking, it's clear that she feels like she's losing. That she wasn't really cut out to be a teacher.

"You guys only have fourth grade once," Molly says. "I have all this for 30 more years."

At which point she climbs out the classroom window and leaves her professional life behind. (And McCarthy begins doing a lot more physical comedy.)

"There's a history of mental illness in our family," her mom, Joyce (Swoosie Kurtz), tells Mike.

Molly's not crazy, but she is lost — at least when it comes to her career. Which, in the three episodes provided to critics, offers some very good stories with Molly (and McCarthy) front and center.

Mike doesn't take a step back, He's still got his moments, and Gardell is great reacting to McCarthy's craziness.

And it's not all about Molly. Kurtz; Reno Wilson (who plays Mike's partner, Carl); Katy Mixon (Molly's sister, Victoria); Nyambi Nyambi (sarcastic waiter Samuel); Louis Mustillo (Joyce's boyfriend, Vince); and Rondi Reed (Mike's mother, Peggy) are all still there and all have moments to shine.

Reed, as the ever cantankerous Peggy, gets one of Monday's best lines: "Marriage is not for the faint of heart. I'll never understand why the gays want it so bad. But, who know? Maybe they'll fix it up, like they do a sketchy neighborhood."

Although it was slated as a midseason show, "Mike & Molly" is producing a full 22 episodes this season. And some changes were bound to happen because series creator/executive producer Mark Roberts left the show after Season 3; former co-executive producer Al Higgins is the new show runner.

And he's off to a very good start.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.