CBS's "Mike & Molly" probably won't ever be a critically loved show, but it certainly deserves to be liked.
Premiering tonight at 9:30 on KDKA-TV, this sitcom about two overweight singles who meet cute at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting conjures laughs and "awws," thanks to its two talented leads and a supporting player.
Swissvale native Billy Gardell ("Lucky") stars as Chicago cop Mike, who is lonely and miserable. Melissa McCarthy, who won viewers over as Sookie on "Gilmore Girls," stars as Molly, a fourth-grade teacher who also just wants to be loved.
Yes, the pilot contains its share of fat jokes, but thanks to salt-of-the-earth performances by Mr. Gardell and Ms. McCarthy, there are also a few moments of realness among the studio audience guffaws. Molly seems genuinely charmed by Mike, who "shares" at a group meeting in what sounds like a stand-up routine.
"I figure if everyone's laughing, they won't try to kill and cook each other," Mike says afterwards.
Mike gets support from his co-worker, Officer Carl McMillan, played by Reno Wilson, who threatens to steal the show from its stars on several occasions. Molly receives less support from her oblivious mother (Swoosie Kurtz) and pothead sister (Carnegie Mellon University grad Katy Mixon), whose characters are unfortunately one-note in the pilot episode.
"Mike & Molly" was created by Mark Roberts ("Two and a Half Men"), who wrote tonight's premiere. Executive producer Chuck Lorre also oversees "Men" and "Big Bang Theory," which relocates to 8 p.m. Thursday this week.
"Mike & Molly" has more of the crude humor of "Men" than "Big Bang" had at the start, but it's offset by a sweetness in the lead characters that makes this sitcom a welcome addition to CBS's Monday night laughter lineup.
If nothing else, they get the theme song right.
CBS remakes "Hawaii Five-0" (10 tonight, KDKA) as just another piece of turn-your-brain-off escapist fare, a loud, action-packed pilot with little heart and less humor.
Its saving grace is that the show looks fantastic, thanks to location filming in and around Oahu, Hawaii.
The story begins as naval officer Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) kills a terrorist whose brother then murders McGarrett's father.
McGarrett, seeking justice/vengeance returns to his Hawaii hometown and takes an offer from the governor (guest star Jean Smart) to lead a team of cops in search of his father's killer.
McGarrett gets paired with Danny "Danno" Williams (Scott Caan), who is newly arrived from the mainland and not a fan of the "pineapple-infested hellhole" he finds himself living in. But thank goodness he's around. Mr. Caan breathes life (and lightness) into an otherwise routine procedural.
Two supporting actors also make a positive impression, particularly Daniel Dae Kim ("Lost") as Chin Ho Kelly, a protege of McGarrett's father. Grace Park ("Battlestar Galactica") plays Kono Kalakaua, Chin Ho's cousin and recent police academy grad.
Neither CBS executives nor civilian fans of Alex O'Loughlin are likely to be deterred in their continuing quest to make the actor, late of one-season-and-done series "Moonlight" and "Three Rivers," a star. And with the brand name appeal of "Hawaii Five-0," Mr. O'Loughlin might finally taste success in spite of always playing characters that come across as dull and without depth.
It's not clear in tonight's pilot which is more wooden, some of McGarrett's dialogue or Mr. O'Loughlin's performance. There's a blandness to this McGarrett, particularly in scenes where he's paired with the more interesting Danno.
Maybe in time the writers and Mr. O'Loughlin will find shades of McGarrett beyond the actor's ability to effortlessly doff a shirt. Regardless, Mr. O'Loughlin and "Hawaii Five-0" can't possibly be worse than pun-plagued David Caruso and "CSI: Miami," which moves to 10 p.m. Sunday starting Oct. 3
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. First Published September 20, 2010 4:00 AM