×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘The Carmichael Show’

With:
Jerrod Carmichael, David Alan Grier, Amber Stevens West, Loretta Devine, Lil Rel Howery

Network sitcoms have avoided being topical for such a long time that they have seemingly forgotten how. Perhaps that’s why NBC’s “The Carmichael Show” feels so ungainly, seeking to achieve a balance between tackling timely issues regarding race while allowing plenty of time for jokes about, say, extramarital sex when the central character’s church-going mom strongly objects to it. Over the course of three episodes, some funny moments do emerge, but too often the writing feels as if it’s veering out of its lane to make points instead of doing so organically.

Written by Jerrod Carmichael and Nicholas Stoller (who directed the comic in the movie “Neighbors”), the series stars Carmichael as Jerrod, who has just taken up residence with his girlfriend Maxine (Amber Stevens West). The two are wildly happy, except that he hasn’t broken the news to his parents (David Alan Grier, Loretta Devine), who have strong opinions about everything, almost none of them expressed at anything less than a shout.

Broadly speaking, there’s an Archie-arguing-with-Mike quality to Jerrod’s generational debates with his dad — who doesn’t always toe the progressive line — but this isn’t “All in the Family,” and juggling the sillier comedy with the political messages feels like dealing with serious issues in once-over-lightly fashion, as if the show is name-checking stories like the deaths of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., or Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., without having a real conversation about it.

Subsequent episodes are slightly stronger, with Maxine showing up to Jerrod’s birthday in a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt, triggering a debate about the value of such protests. Dad, the iconoclast, doesn’t want his wife to go — only because he sees such rallies as hotbeds of sexual lust — and at one point hails Oprah Winfrey as “the reason black people wake up in the morning.”

Featuring a premiere directed by “The Big Bang Theory’s” Mark Cendrowski, “Carmichael” is an improvement over “Mr. Robinson,” the sitcom that has been keeping the time period warm the past few weeks. Still, its nobler aspirations are ultimately drowned out by its chronic hysteria, as if somebody didn’t trust the show (or the audience) to ratchet down the volume long enough to have a genuinely earnest moment.

Granted, network comedy is in such a sorry state of retreat right now that trying to dial back to the days of Norman Lear represents a rather logical gamble. Yet after watching “The Carmichael Show” mostly stumble through that process, the primary feeling that NBC’s latest sitcom stab evokes is a sense that for topical comedy, anyway, those really were the days.

Popular on Variety

TV Review: 'The Carmichael Show'

(Series; NBC, Wed. Aug. 26, 9 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Universal Television and Twentieth Century Fox Television.

Crew: Executive producers, Jerrod Carmichael, Nicholas Stoller, Ravi Nandan; director, Mark Cendrowski; writers, Carmichael, Stoller; camera, Gary Baum; production designer, John Shaffner; editor, Kirk Benson; casting, Jeanne McCarthy, Nicole Abellera. 30 MIN.

Cast: Jerrod Carmichael, David Alan Grier, Amber Stevens West, Loretta Devine, Lil Rel Howery

More TV

  • Patria

    HBO Europe Unveils ‘Patria’ Footage to Captive San Sebastian Audience

    SAN SEBASTIAN — Amid large expectation, HBO Europe has revealed first footage giving a first sense of tone and pace of its Spanish original series “Patria.” A packed-to-overflowing press conference on Saturday morning at the San Sebastian Festival can be read as one sign of the potential popularity of the eight-part series. The panel sneak-peek [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • Peter Weber and Mike Johnson

    'The Bachelor's' Mike Johnson on Diversity and New Leading Man Peter Weber

    ABC named its newest star of “The Bachelor” this week, officially making Peter Weber the leading man for Season 24 of the long-running dating show. Social media backlash ensued following the announcement due to ABC’s selection lacking diversity, yet again. Since the dating franchise began in 2002, there has been only one “Bachelorette” of color [...]

  • ABC Studios Logo

    ABC Studios Head of Alternative Fernando Hernandez Exits

    ABC Studios’ head of alternative Fernando Hernandez has departed from his post at the Disney-owned television studio, a source familiar with the situation told Variety. The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news. Hernandez’s exit follows an executive shuffling at the top in recent months that has included the departure of Amy Hartwick, ABC Studio’s head [...]

  • Rob Cowan, Greg Silverman'The Conjuring 2'

    Greg Silverman’s Stampede, School of Rock Team for Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Greg Silverman is partnering with School of Rock through his content creation company Stampede. The collaboration with the music school will create exclusive content, starting with the development of an unscripted series.  School of Rock operates a network of performance-based education franchises that offer students of all ages guidance [...]

  • TV Roundup: Erica Durance Reprises 'Smallville'

    TV News Roundup: Erica Durance Reprises 'Smallville' Role in 'Arrowverse' Crossover

    In today’s TV news roundup, Erica Durance reprises her “Smallville” role in the CW’s annual “Arrowverse” crossover, and Showtime shares with Variety an exclusive sneak peek at the return of “The Circus.” FIRST LOOKS “2020 is the most important election of our lifetime,” Alex Wagner says in a new trailer for the fourth season of [...]

  • Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel WME

    Endeavor Targets Sept. 27 for Stock Debut, IPO Video Tells Company's Origin Story

    After years of preparation, Endeavor is set to make its formal Wall Street debut on Sept. 27, when its stock will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Endeavor has targeted Sept. 26 for the final pricing of its shares. The stock will trade publicly the following day. Earlier this week, Endeavor said its [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content