It's not exactly the rebirth of the stand-up-based-sitcom, but Mike and Molly is a definite step up in the right direction for Billy Gardell. Gardell, who had recurring roles previously as a supporting character in such series as My Name is Earl and Yes, Dear, takes the lead in Mike and Molly, which debuted last night as the new entry in the CBS Monday-night lineup. In case you missed it: CBS has the full Mike and Molly pilot available to view on the show site.

Daniel Fienberg over at HitFix.com has an interesting take on the notion of laughing at versus laughing with, in his review of the pilot. I'm not sure how much of this actually applies to Mike and Molly the series as it does the pilot episode, which naturally (or as natural as Hollywood ever is) paints the broadest strokes possible to attract the widest possible audience. So, yes, the stars who would-be a couple are fat guy and fat woman — a mild triumph over the sitcom cliche of fat guy with skinny attractive woman — and there are plenty of fat jokes to be had in the debut. But, take the table pratfall. To me, that cliche moment isn't really about the fall (which essentially happens off-camera), but about the sight gag afterward, which has nothing to do with Gardell's (er, Officer Biggs') weight. Fienberg points to another Chuck Lorre production which hit for CBS, Big Bang Theory, and as I recall, I had zero intention initially of wanting to watch a sitcom based on two geeks and a hot girl. It'd take my mother (someone I didn't expect to be in that show's target demo) to get me to see how that show had evolved into something worth watching, and as CBS has done this year, shifted into a big battle at 8 p.m. Thursdays.

But back to Mike and Molly. Here's a promotional clip:

Melissa McCarthy (as seen on Gilmore Girls) plays the female lead, with a supporting cast including TV vets such as Swoosie Kurtz and Reno Wilson, and Katy Mixon (last seen getting snubbed on Eastbound and Down!)

Congrats to Billy Gardell, a true road warrior in stand-up who has been headlining comedy clubs across America for many years. I last saw Gardell a couple of years ago in Montreal, where he was performing among the "Masters." It's good to see him getting this break after two decades.

As he said in this appearance with Craig Ferguson, he's just now getting to do talk shows. Roll this clip of Gardell and Ferguson, please.