Written by Aaron Sarnecky
THE CARMICHAEL SHOW, ‘PILOT’ & ‘PROTEST’ PLOT SUMMARIES:
In the premiere of NBC’s newest sitcom, which stars comedian Jerrod Carmichael as a fictionalized version of himself, Jerrod struggles to tell his traditionally-minded parents (David Alan Grier and Loretta Devine) that’s he’s living with his girlfriend, Maxine (Amber Stevens West). Later, a protest over a white police officer shooting an unarmed black man threatens to overshadow Jerrod’s birthday.
NBC is sort of in an odd place right now when it comes to comedies. I admittedly gravitate to dramatic shows and movies, but I’m generally aware of what’s going on in the world of comedy. I know that NBC’s comedies, especially those in the Thursday lineup, have been a staple of the network. This lineup has included classics like Cheers, Seinfeld, and Friends. Interestingly though, in the 2000s, NBC’s comedy block began featuring more single camera shows without laugh tracks, such as The Office, Scrubs, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation. Last year, however, NBC axed the Must See TV/Comedy Night Done Right lineup in favor of dramas. Since then, NBC has taken somewhat of a renewed interest in the multi-camera setup, with shows like Mr. Robinson and Undateable (which are not on Thursdays).
The Carmichael Show is the latest venture into the multi-camera setup, and given NBC’s recent history, it feels dated in its presentation; the show reminds you that it’s taped in front of a live studio audience, almost as in explanation of the laugh track. Normally I wouldn’t even comment on something like this. But it’s significant because of two reasons, the first being the already mentioned comedies of the past 10 or so years. The second reason is that there is a growing disdain for multi-camera comedies, largely because of the popularity of the single camera setup. While I can understand viewers disliking the somewhat annoying canned laughter (which is used because people are more likely to laugh if someone else is), filming simple sets with multiple cameras is just economical, and that’s fine, in my opinion. It’s all worth mentioning because some viewers might be inclined to write off The Carmichael Show almost immediately because of the laugh track.
And believe it or not, it’s not bad. Some Jerrod Carmichael fans might be scratching their heads, considering his biggest claim to fame that I know of is an HBO special rated TV-MA; the TV-PG rated Carmichael Show might seem too tame in comparison. Obviously these fans will form their own opinions, and I can’t speak for them because I haven’t seen the HBO special, but let it be known that The Carmichael Show is not some glossy sitcom. There are frequent jokes made about sex, race, religion, and politics, with a decent amount of mild language thrown in. That’s not to say that they are that explicit. But it is enough for the network to tack on a D for Suggestive Dialogue to that TV-PG rating. In fact, they could have given it a TV-14 rating and that would have fit just as well, if not better.
The nexus of most of this dialogue is Jerrod’s parents. They have their own opinions, many of which do not sit well with Jerrod. The best of it comes from the family’s discussion about President Obama, which Jerrod instigates to avoid having to tell his Bible-thumping parents that he’s living with his girlfriend. Other funny bits include quips made about Maxine being biracial, as well as how long she should wait to have kids. Of course, I don’t want to give the impression that Maxine is a punching bag. She commands the plot as much any other character, and knows how to shut up Jerrod. However, she does come off as sort of unlikeable when she wants to protest instead of celebrate her boyfriend’s birthday, the festivities for which were planned out in advance.
Despite all the nice things I have to say about the show, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I laughed out loud, because I didn’t. But I certainly did smile at some of the jokes. It doesn’t necessarily have the creativity of other comedies I’ve reviewed, namely Rick and Morty, but it’s something you can turn on, relax to, and enjoy. Don’t count it out just because of the format or because it’s not HBO.
RATING: 7 OUT OF 10 (GOOD)
THE CARMICHAEL SHOW AIRS WEDNESDAYS AT 9PM ON NBC