Monday, December 21, 2015

MIKE & MOLLY -- the ugly stepchild

Fans of MIKE & MOLLY are understandably upset. Apparently CBS has cancelled the show and reduced the number of episodes ordered for its final season. Both are curious moves considering the show is not even on the air at the moment. It’s not like the ratings are abysmal.

But this is not an uncommon practice. There are some shows that networks just don't believe in, just don’t love. And they are forever treated like the ugly stepchild. The only reason they last as long as they do is because, despite the networks’ lack of support, they DO get decent ratings. Damn them for making things confusing!

MIKE & MOLLY has performed reasonably well wherever CBS has put it. And its star, Melissa McCarthy has become a legitimate movie star. You would think for that reason alone CBS would be thrilled. They’ve captured lightening in a bottle.  And yet, in fairness, it’s not like McCarthy’s rise to stardom has kicked MIKE & MOLLY to a new level of popularity. It hasn’t. Neither did THE OFFICE’S ratings suddenly skyrocket when Steve Carell got hot in films.

A big consideration is economics, especially in MIKE & MOLLY’S case. Everyone initially signs a six-year deal. The six years will be up this season. This is when having a movie star as your lead becomes not such a good thing. License fees (how much the network will pay for each episode) are usually determined in advance and then putting together your cast and production crew is like an NBA franchise building a team under the salary cap. Sometimes the costs are just too prohibitive.

And still another factor – MIKE & MOLLY is not owned by CBS. It’s a Warner Brothers show. CBS has nothing to gain longterm by MIKE & MOLLY’S success. So it’s now the ugly stepchild with a foot missing.

I’ve been through this personally having worked on BECKER for the length of its run. For whatever reason, CBS never got behind the show. I don’t know why. It was better than 90% of everything else it had on, featured a major TV star in Ted Danson, always stayed within budget, and got solid ratings in every cannon fodder shit timeslot they dumped it in. Made no difference. Being a Paramount show not a CBS Productions show didn’t help, but BECKER deserved “some” love. CBS would eventually use it as a utility player to fill in the holes whenever their more glossy series tanked. And it always performed. So the thanks it got was being picked up and held back. Sound familiar? RULES OF ENGAGEMENT got the same treatment.

BECKER was picked up for its final season with an order of thirteen and told that would be it. When those thirteen finally aired, long after we had wrapped and everyone was scattered to the wind, the series ended with ratings CBS would KILL for today.

Here’s how little they thought of the show. For our 100th episode, usually a big deal – we were pre-empted.

So MIKE & MOLLY fans, enjoy your remaining episodes. Sorry the show was cancelled. Just know it wasn’t your fault.

34 comments:

McAlvie said...

Well that explains why sitcom tv has gotten so awful. There's clearly no point in creating a smart, original show if networks are just going to sneer and order more episodes of 2 Crude Bimbos. I'm not a huge fan of M&M either, but as you said there's a lot worse out there. Ah well, last night my favorite episode of Fawlty Towers was on PBS and the library has all three seasons of The Newsroom. Who needs the networks?

Peter said...

Friday Question

This one's a bit of a geeky question but I'd like to know where you stand on comedy movies being filmed in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I've noticed more and more comedies in that format. I've always associated 2.35:1 with epics and action adventures. The scope look just seems odd for a comedy but I recently saw Sisters, Love the Coopers, The Night Before and they were all in that aspect ratio. In the same way that comedies should never really be longer than 100 minutes (another unofficial rule that Sisters breaks, clocking in at 2hrs, which though a funny movie is way too long), I think comedies should generally be 1.85:1.

gwendolyn said...

I loved the few episodes of Becker I saw on reruns several years ago. (Actually saw Becker before Cheers… a long story).
Anyhow, have searched both Netflix and Amazon for more Becker…. nothing! If Netflix ever stops streaming Frasier I'm going to organize a protest march!

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

...always loved Becker because the characters were interesting. Whatta concept.

Maybe is my fanboy thinking here but why in the world wouldn't guys like you and David be given the freedom to create a series and receive the commitment it deserves in order to build an audience? I mean it's not like you haven't made your bones already with M.A.S.H., Cheers, Frasier and everything else.

There are some big dollars involved here, and it seems to me that the launch-cancel-launch-cancel rhythm that sucks cash out of networks and production companies would come to a quick stop if you guys were allowed to do the voodoo that you do so well.

When I'm king, things will be different...

:)

Don R said...

Ken, wasn't "Wings" treated the same way by NBC? If so, having experienced the ugly stepchild thing with both "Wings" and "Becker," how does this uncertainty play out with cast and crew? Are they nervous, resentful, or resigned to it?

Alex Perez said...

I was under the impression that The Office ratings drastically improved from season 1 to season 2 as a result of Steve Carell's new found The 40-Year Old Virgin fame?

tavm said...

So Chuck Lorre's hold on the network is slipping with just "The Big Bang Theory" and "Mom" his only shows still on the air. At least he now has syndication hits of "TBBT" and "M&M" and "TAAHM" still doing well there.

blinky said...

Frank's Place.
Action.
Better Off Ted.

Three show that never got any love from the suits.

BrettJ said...

I am not a fan of the show, but props to those who are. I think any one of us can name a show the network ignored but we all loved. I can also name so many shows the network loved and I thought were trash - it's all part of the game. By the way Ken - "lightening in a bottle"? Really?

CRL said...

I'm guessing Melissa McCarthy didn't campaign for another season.

-bee said...

A few weeks ago or so I saw a story about Melissa McCarthy having lost a lot of weight, and wondered how that would effect her show, which I guess (have only seen like 1 episode) is very much grounded in fat jokes.

Well, a few days after seeing that story I heard the show was cancelled. Perhaps CBS and/or Chuck Lorre just don't think the show can work without McCarthy being 'overweight enough.

It does seem that when actors (male or female) who establish an identity as being 'fat' lose weight, it can cause problems in their careers going forward. I may be wrong but I think Jonah Hill had to regain weight recently to get cast in a part.

Cap'n Bob said...

Thanks for the insight into How Things Work, Ken. The lunatics are indeed runni g the asylum. As for M&M, never watched it, don't care.

Diane D. said...

The only time I have ever heard "lightning in a bottle" used to describe a relationship was in referring to Sam and Diane by one of the creators of CHEERS---M&M couldn't hold a candle (and I've never even seen it).

Stephen Marks said...

Yes, thank you for the insight on how this works. I liked the secondary characters on M&M (Vincent, sister, mother) so I'm sad to see it go, its already on 5 times a day up here in Toronto. You could tell Becker never got the love, never seemed to get the press and yes it was alot better then most shows that were on. I can't believe CBS is giving The Odd Couple another season, horribly miscast as that guy from Friends is no Oscar, and certainly no Walter Matheau or Jack Klugman.

Curt Alliaume said...

This may save CBS some money in order to keep The Big Bang Theory going a couple more years. There was an article in The Hollywood Reporter today that season 10 might be its last, but I can see it going another year or two beyond. It hasn't dipped significantly in quality, and unlike Friends, I don't think Cuoco, Galecki, or Parsons have either launched a mega-successful movie career or appear thoroughly bored with the show.

JoeyH said...

I'm a Melissa McCarthy fan and I used to watch M&M every week. But the writing got progressively worse, especially focusing on cheap sex jokes from the minor characters. I gave up on it.

VP81955 said...

If this means more of a push for "Mom," no complaints from me -- especially since Anna Faris can't seem to capitalize on its popularity to get the big-screen hit she clearly deserves (a la McCarthy).

Ozzie Nielsen said...

I was under the impression that The Office ratings drastically improved from season 1 to season 2 as a result of Steve Carell's new found The 40-Year Old Virgin fame?

That'd be correct. The first season of "The Office" averaged 5.4 million viewers. Season Two jumped to 8 million, a level where it remained for the next six seasons. "The 40-Year Old Virgin" opened a month before the second season premiere.

Pat Reeder said...

I've mentioned this before, but I think "M&M" is a show where the overall quality isn't that high, but audiences just really like the main characters. Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy are not the typical hot, young sitcom actors. They seem like nice, funny regular people, like your favorite neighbors that you enjoy visiting with once a week. In most other ways, it's a typical Chuck Lorre sitcom, with one-dimensional characters: mom is an oversexed floozy, her boyfriend makes crude sex and toilet comments, sister is a slut who takes every drug or drink available (the female Charlie Sheen role), etc.; all dispensing easy, crude one-liners. But audiences look past that because they find the two main characters so relatable. So if Melissa McCarthy is suddenly out of their price range, it's not like they could write M&M out of the show, keep the rest of the cast, and spin it off into something else. Without them, there IS nothing else.

BTW, I was one of those people who hunted around to find "Becker" wherever CBS hid it. The one where he went on the radio show and savaged political correctness was one of my favorite episodes of any show ever, and it's more timely now that it was then. The scene is on YouTube, and you should post it in your blog to show how prescient that show was. It should be required viewing for every current snowflake college student and every noodle-spined college administrator. Looking back on it, I see the bitter, brutally-honest, anti-PC doctor played by Danson as the forerunner of my favorite TV character of the past 10 years, Dr. House.

cadavra said...

Almost everything David E. Kelley has done in recent years has gotten bitch-slapped. ABC was just champing at the bit to cancel BOSTON LEGAL every year, even moving it to different nights every season, but the damn thing kept getting ratings and winning Emmys. The usually patient TNT axed MONDAY MORNINGS so quickly the cast never knew what hit 'em. And of course HARRY'S LAW was the textbook example of nose-cutting/face-spiting. Perhaps he should follow Sorkin's lead and go into movies.

And as for aspect ratios, let me remind everyone that the Greatest. Comedy. Ever. (that would be IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD) was shot in the Ultra Panavision ratio of 2.76:1 (and even in its short version runs over 2 1/2 hours).

Pat Reeder said...

The Greatest. Comedy. Ever. is "Duck Soup" with the Marx Brothers. It runs 68 minutes in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

tavm said...

I may be biased but to me The Greatest. Comedy. Ever. is Airplane! which only ran 90 minutes and I saw it on a screen that wasn't very wide in an 8-screen multiplex at a mall.

H Johnson said...

I laughed a lot at Animal House and it was about this high by that wide and ran the whole length of the movie. Perfect for a comedy.

Aloha

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Curt Alliaume: I've been watching THE BIG BANG THEORY since day 1, and although I don't think the performances have slipped I think the writing has cratered (the last couple of episodes excepted). It's a bit better this year than the last two, though, and I've been wondering if it's maybe benefited from Chuck Lorre's being spread a little less thin.

wg

Donald said...

Mike and Molly was such a waste of Rondi Reed and Swoosie Kurtz, but if the paycheck allows Rondi to return to Steppenwolf or Swoosie to Broadway, then it was worth it.

Geo. said...

Wasn't there a time when the networks could not create their own content, except for news programs? It did take away the most favored nation incentive to go with bad shows they owned over better programs they did not. by the way I am not a robot; it's just my stilted writing that makes you ask that every time.

Joseph Gordon-Brevity said...

The Greatest. Comedy. Ever. is "Duck Soup" with the Marx Brothers. It runs 68 minutes in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

I may be biased but to me The Greatest. Comedy. Ever. is Airplane! which only ran 90 minutes and I saw it on a screen that wasn't very wide in an 8-screen multiplex at a mall.



Laurel and Hardy's "Big Business" is 19 minutes. "Little Red Riding Rabbit" is 7 minutes.

MikeN said...

Cadavra, I've never heard of those two shows.
Tell me, do the episodes that you've seen feature either
A big murder trial, judge calls in the lawyers and says "Jury is asking me if they can convict for manslaughter, which tells me they don't want to find him guilty of murder, but they don't want to let him go either. So the question is who will blink first?" Then a focus on one of the lawyers with a stern gaze.

or

Rape trial, lawyer bashes the woman in court and defendant found not guilty. Later, lawyer is out shopping and hits it off with the sales clerk, who is revealed to be the same woman. Now lawyer feels terrible.

halojones-fan said...

I always wonder how much DVD sales affect anything that people decide. Obviously buying Mike And Molly sets isn't going to change anything now but would it factor into a decision about what kind of series to go for?

Or is it just "how many people watch the show at the instant of broadcast" and DVD sales are just dumbasses who missed it the first time?

Anonymous said...

When M&M first aired I remember someone in the media commenting about how gross it was to think of the two obese characters being sexually active. Then Melissa McCarthy became the break-out star and went on to make movies. I didn't think she would want to stick around for TV and I read she regretted signing on and was very unhappy with the show and her co-stars. By the way I was a big fan of both Frank's Place and Becker. Janice B.

A_Homer said...

I think McCarthy's character, overweight or not, is able to come off very cute and funny, as she did already in Gilmore Girls. But "Mike" is just not that nice to look at over time, he is extra-wide, and dark bags under his eyes making him sort of haunted looking. I just think he could work as a comedian but not as the one you want to imagine McCarthy with. He was funny, but really too obese to not notice the "elephant in the room" of weight issues.

Jim J. Terrell said...

About the series BECKER, wouldn't Paramount Television (its production company) merge with CBS Productions to form CBS Television Studios after the original Viacom split into two conglomerates (one of them being CBS) in the mid-2000s decade? RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, coincidentally, was also co-produced by CBS TV Studios (along with Sony Pictures Television).

cadavra said...

MikeN: Your snarky question is tantamount to saying, "Is that the Three Stooges short where they get jobs they're unqualified for and make a mess of things?"

There are only X number of storylines, and inevitably repetition is going to set in. Kelley, moreso than almost any other TV writer, understands that what sells a show is not the premise, but a collection of likable, interesting characters we enjoy spending time with. Look at such long-running procedurals as NCIS, BONES, CASTLE, THE CLOSER/MAJOR CRIMES, RIZZOLI & ISLES, et al. They're all pretty much the same--dead body discovered in a park or alley, heroes rush to crime scene and then set out to solve the murder. We don't really care whodunit; we want to see what sci-fi movie Castle will reference, or Provenza whining about the ball game he's missing, or Montenegro cooing over the latest hi-tech equipment she just has to have, or Rizzoli turning her nose up at the new dish Isles has cooked. That's why we come back week after week. Not the judge's instructions.

And by the way, MONDAY MORNINGS was a hospital show. Not a courtroom in sight.

forg/jecoup said...

Mike and Molly is a sweet show, there's hardly any fat jokes really, in season one there were some but later on, the show became a romcom and then a family sitcom. They deal with health issues as well because of their weight.

The show is nothing groundbreaking or as the cool kids say it EDGY but it's comfort TV and sad to see it go. I believe Melissa would continue on but hey it's easy to blame her because she's the one with success outside TV but per deadline report, she will sign on had CBS renewed them, maybe her team wanted a salary increase whoknows for sure