With just seven episodes remaining, CBS sitcom Mike & Molly resumes its final season on April 25, leading up to its conclusion on May 16. The show was dramatically canceled late last year, with the cast breaking the news on social media before the network confirmed it was ending the show -- and announced a reduced episode order.
But lead actor Billy Gardell -- and the show's writers -- knew Mike & Molly wasn't coming back as early as December, leading to a silver lining for fans: the early warning gave the writers a chance to prepare the definitive series finale, one that Gardell says is one of the best episodes the show has ever done.
"The Mike & Molly fans, who've been incredibly loyal, will be very, very pleased with the finale," Gardell tells TVGuide.com. In fact, he continued to describe the last three episodes of the series as, "just beautiful."
The show has always had heart and balanced its comedy with emotional moments between characters -- Gardell recalled that, "Norman Lear once said, 'the more you make an audience care, the harder they'll laugh when you ask them to,'" quoting the creator of All in the Family who blazed the trail for shows like Mike & Molly -- and that blend will be on full display as the show draws to its finale.
"There's beautiful closure," Gardell promises. "We were blessed in so many ways to have such a beautiful team through the whole thing -- cast, crew and writing."
Remembering the final days of the show, Gardell recalled that the last week of shooting was tough to get through, because it was the last time the cast and crew were doing everything.
"There were a lot of watery eyes," Gardell says. Legendary sitcom director James Burrows, who directed all of the show's first two seasons -- including the pilot -- returned to helm the finale, and his presence added gravitas, as well as bringing the show full circle.
And looking back, Gardell is proud of everything the show accomplished. When he catches old episodes in reruns, he's impressed by the quality. "Now we're in that rare fraternity of that 5:30-6:30 slot, where people are coming home from work, and it's an honor to be there," Gardell says.
He's grateful to the show's loyal fans, who started watching when the show was on Monday nights, up against juggernauts like Monday Night Football and The Voice -- and stuck with it through uncertain times.
"Our fans showed up enough that we were able to hold our own every week," Gardell says with pride.
Even though Mike & Molly is no more, the show will live on in those reruns and in the relationships formed between the members of the cast and crew. "That show was life changing for me, and for a lot of us," Gardell says.
Mike & Molly returns Monday, April 25 at 8/7c on CBS, and will have two back-to-back episodes starting May 2 through the series finale on May 16.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)