Friday, 28 August 2015

The Carmichael Show - Review (NBC)

The Carmichael Show is a very, very promising show. It has the potential to be a very profound, controversial and contemporary sitcom trough its successful combination of old school and modern. However, the sitcom has some way to go before it becomes a must-see show...

The pilot episode begins with a disturbing rendition of Taylor Swift's song "You Belong With Me" as Jerrod (Jerrod Carmichael) and Maxine (Amber Stevens) unpack their belongings in their new apartment. They are a cute, yet familiar couple. They are young, ambitious and willing to move their relationship to the next level. I can't help but notice how nice it is to see a young Black couple in primetime television, and a loving one at that. Their relationship is central to the show, and may remind older viewers of Martin.

The premise for the episode revolves around Jerrod not wanting to tell his strict and overly opinionated parents about them moving in together. . Despite the ease of breaking the news via text or through a phone call, thus, solving the issue of telling his parents face to face (let's face it, this is a sitcom, everything has to be a little unrealistic), Jerrod and Maxine go to his parent's house where all hell breaks loose...

Jerrod's parents are also central to the show, and bring many of the laughs. Loretta Devine (Cynthia Carmichael) is Jerrod's Mum who is like an African-American version of Bree Van De Kamp from Desperate Housewives. She is all about keeping up appearances and maintaing her strong, Christian values over her family. It's refreshing seeing a religious character in a primetime sitcom, and not a religious character who is a mad fanatic or extremist, like Richard Wayne Gary Wayne in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. David Alan Grier (Joe Carmichael) is far more careless and laidback with his family... and his health! he is just as opinionated as Cynthia which leads to numerous funny one-liners and clashes, such as Obama and what he has done for America.

Jerrod would rather make his parent's argue and debate about racial topics than tell them about his new living situation?! Luckily for the viewers, this leads to the pilot's funniest moments. While Jerrod is conflicted, and Maxine is frustrated, Cynthia and Joe revel in a funny commentary about race and politics.

The pilot aims to be provocative and controversial and manages to be without trying to hard or being overbearing.  These conversations could occur in many homes, and shows the clash between old and new values, such as Cynthia confronting Maxine over her plans to be a Psychologist rather than planning on having a family. The Carmichael Show tackles tongue in cheek topics by the horns, something which I haven't seen in a long time and reminds me of one of my favourite sitcoms, Married... With Children.

 I'm sure viewers will relate, agree or even disagree with the statements of the main characters which makes them feel far more real. The characters, including Jerrod and Maxine are very raw but are not supposed to be characters audiences aspire to be, like in other family sitcoms, you are expected to relate to their situations and agree or disagree with their opinions.

"Protest" starts with Jerrod and Maxine in their apartment. Jerrod's brother and his ex-wife also make an appearance. While I think Jerrod's brother, Bobby Carmichael (Lil Rel Howery), is a typical sitcom character (i.e. his shady tactics make Jerrod look like a better person), his ex-wife Nekeisha (Tiffany Haddish) has the potential to become the show's funniest secondary character.

In both the Pilot and Protest, Nekeisha's brief on-screen appearances has lead to the episode's funniest moments. Unfortunately, Jerrod and Maxine's they are still quite... unfunny. The writers and director tried to make Jerrod not liking his present humorous although the jokes seemed quite flat and predictable. 

Nekeisha introduces the episode's main plot... An unarmed black person was shot by a police officer, leading to protests.

Firstly, I am all for sitcoms tackling serious topics. In fact, I encourage it. Many sitcoms don't receive the recognition their deserve and those that actually tackle troubling subjects usually go unnoticed, like Suburgatory tackling a mother being absent from her child's life. However, when topics are  pulled from the headlines to make the "case of the week" which is the situation for many cop shows, it can sometimes feel out of place and reductive. While police brutality against Blacks in America is a very serious topic which has received a lot of media coverage in the news as of late, The Carmichael Show's treatment of the topic seemed premature and rushed.

Do I think the issue should have been addressed on the show? Yes. But at a much later date when the show has a built-in fan base who are not scared by heavier, and more serious topics, like race relations in America.

It is not unusual for sitcoms to tackle serious topics, but it is a difficult task to remain funny while addressing these topics. This episode wasn't too funny. If the issue was addressed towards the end of a the show's second season, once the writers have developed the characters,  and the 'world of Carmichael', the episode would have been funnier. The audiences would relate to, and understand the characters more than they would after only seeing one episode. Even All in the Family waited until it's eighth season for the Edith's 50th Birthday episode which is quite possibly, one of the most controversial episodes in sitcom history. But it worked due to audiences being family with the family.

Overall, The Carmichael Show is quite brave for tackling a serious issue very early into it's freshman run. It tackled Police brutality against blacks fairly well but could have been better and funnier. The parents remain the funniest aspect of the show. Hopefully, NBC keep the The Carmichael Show around long enough for it to develop it's voice and improving the way it tackles serious topics.

The Carmichael Show definitely has potential to be an even better sitcom. While the parent's bought the funny, as the short, six episode season progresses, we'll get to see Jerrod in even more awkward situations (at work, with his friends if he has any hehe etc...) to see his humour. As long as the show's topics push boundaries while also remaining funny, and storytelling becomes stronger and the cast becomes a stronger ensemble, The Carmichael Show could definitely become a noteworthy show!

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