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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

PILOT REVIEW: The Carmichael Show

THE CARMICHAEL SHOW










Starring: Jerrod Carmichael, Amber Stevens West, Lil Rel Howery, Tiffany Haddish, with Loretta Devine, and David Alan Grier

Created by Nicholas Stoller, Jerrod Carmichael, Ari Katcher, and Willie Hunter
Story by Nicholas Stoller, Jerrod Carmichael, Ari Katcher, & Willie Hunter, Directed by Mark Cendrowski

The Carmichael Show is a new sitcom based on the stand-up of comedian Jerrod Carmichael. The best way to describe it is a black version of Everybody Loves Raymond. Carmichael plays a character named after himself and he has recently moved in with girlfriend Maxine (Amber Stevens West). They must deal with Jerrod's overbearing parents, Cynthia and Joe (Loretta Devine and David Alan Grier). Rounding out the main cast is Jerrod's brother, Bobby (Lil Rey Howery) and Bobby's ex-wife, Nekeisha (Tiffany Haddish).

The show started weakly but started to find its groove by the end of the first episode and the second episode that immediately followed was even stronger (and touched on a hot button issue in 2015 with its Black Lives Matter theme). At first, I was rolling my eyes at the tired jokes and exaggerated hand movements and facial expressions in the opening scene. But it was almost as if I was seeing a play and the actors just needed to settle down a little bit because the episode got better as it went along.

The episode really improved once Loretta Devine and David Alan Grier appeared. I have found Grier annoying in the past but he was funny here and slightly more mellowed. Or maybe he just appeared mellow because Loretta Devine was so outrageous. But she was outrageous in a good way with an exaggerated voice and a sense of self-righteousness that could have been annoying but was actually pretty hysterical. While the Republican debate has already been done on Black-ish this past season, the discussion about prayer and the Bible was pretty funny.

Black family comedies and generation gap comedies have both been staples on TV for a long time but this felt a little bit different by blending the two. The show isn't afraid to tackle news of the day in a year where racial issues have been all over the news. Despite some typical sitcom conventions, this felt fresher than most multi-camera sitcoms in recent years have felt. It's too bad NBC is dumping its six episodes over three weeks during the dog days at the end of summer.

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