Should overweight people -- and only overweight people -- be allowed to make fat jokes on TV? And if they do, will the well-padded viewers in the audience -- 34 percent of American adults are obese -- laugh along? Or do those kinds of jokes still sting, no matter who's delivering them?
Those are the kinds of questions that spring to my mind when watching the new series, Mike & Molly (CBS, Monday, 9:30 p.m. ET).
Weight is such a sensitive topic that it's actually hard to blog about the show. I can't imagine being part of its writing staff, carefully fashioning each joke. "Is this one too mean?" "Is it okay if it comes from this person, but not that one?" And so on.
The fat jokes are flying from the very first minute of this sitcom, a story of two obese people falling in love. A portly cop, Mike Biggs (Billy Gardell, who played Officer Hoyne in My Name is Earl) good-naturedly endures jibes from his partner, Carl (Reno Wilson). "You better get married quick, cause you're starting to show," says Carl. And later, "You know, I would shoot you right now, but I don't have enough chalk to outline your body." Mike just chuckles, and the ability to laugh at himself is endearing.
Meanwhile, Molly Flynn (Melissa McCarthy, who played Sookie St. James in Gilmore Girls and Dena in Samantha Who?), pokes fun at her overweight self. "Once my dad had to write a check for $280 to the Girl Scouts of America for unaccounted cookies!" she cracks during sharing time at her Overeaters Anonymous group.
The upshot of all this endearing-ness? I can't help but feel the point that's being made, because I'm being hit over the head with it. There's just nothing subtle about it: Mike & Molly wants us to know that overweight people are lovable and valuable. They're even more lovable than all the "typical weight" people around them -- who are lovable, too, but sometimes insensitive.
By the end of the first episode, I realized something. Questions like "who can make a fat joke?" are interesting, but here's what's really worth asking: "Is the show funny?" And that remains to be seen.
Should only overweight people be allowed to make fat jokes? Chime in below!