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The Five Spot: Al Higgins

Mike & Molly ends its sixth and final season on May 16. For Al Higgins, it’s been two shows: the one he joined as a coexecutive producer for its 2010 debut, and the one he ran solo after the 2013 exit of creator Mark Roberts.

Higgins, a comedy vet of NewsRadio and Malcolm in the Middle who started out writing for Nickelodeon cartoon Doug, was asked to embrace the outrageous comedy of costar Melissa McCarthy. The show’s backers wanted to capture more of her anarchic spirit.

Mike & Molly managed to stay on track and take some bigger swings after the reshuffling, but the series hit a bumpy patch down the stretch. Cast members, including McCarthy, broke the news of its demise on social media last December; the network did not confirm the move until January.

An edited version of Higgins’ conversation with B&C associate director of web content Jessika Walsten follows.

You took over the role of executive producer and showrunner in 2013. What made you want to take on the job?

The supremely talented actors and the great writing staff. It’s always difficult to take over a show, but if I was ever going to choose one, this was it. The talent that was gathered on this show was just phenomenal.

What have you enjoyed the most about working on Mike & Molly?

It’s the people. From the top down, the nicest, most talented people you’d ever want to meet, let alone work with. Every time we had a guest actor on the show, or a fill-in crew member, they would always talk about how incredibly nice everyone was.

You’ve worked on a number of comedies over your career. Why comedy?

Over the years I’ve realized just how important the drama is in a good comedy. The heart, the emotion—that’s how you really win over an audience. I guess you could say comedy is in my blood. Two of my brothers, Dave Higgins (Malcolm in the Middle, Mike & Molly) and Steve Higgins (Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon) are also in the business. We didn’t compete in sports growing up—we sat on the couch watching TV and tried to make each other laugh. TV was a big influence on us, much more so than movies.

What was your first job in the business, and how did it shape your perspective on comedy and television?

My first job in show business was working as a production assistant on my brother’s show The Higgins Boys and Gruber on the Comedy Channel. I was just out of college, which I had dropped out of, and was surrounded by so many funny people. Cable was a great place to start out back then.

What do you want the series’ legacy to be?

I always like it when someone tells me they finally saw a Mike & Molly [episode, and say] ‘Man, that show is really funny,’ like it was a surprise. Mike & Molly is a show with great characters and a lot of heart, but ‘Man, that show is really funny’ is a pretty good legacy.