When “United States of Al” debuts its second season on CBS on Oct. 7, it will tell a story that mimics its production staff’s experience in scrambling to help those who had loved ones in Afghanistan during the recent Taliban attacks.
“We had shot one and a half episodes during the week of the fall of Kabul and quickly realized that we were going to have to think that we had guessed wrong [about] what was going to happen and that we were going to have to adjust our plans,” executive producer Maria Ferrari said during a WarnerMedia Television Critics Assn. press panel on Tuesday.
“United States of Al” follows Riley (Parker Young), a Marine combat veteran who struggles to readjust to civilian life in Ohio, and Awalmir aka Al (Adhir Kalyan), Riley’s interpreter who served with his unit in Afghanistan and who Riley helped bring to America to start a new life. The series premiere in 2020 saw the reunion of the two men when Riley finally succeeded in getting Al out of his home country, and the rest of the season that unfolded from there focused on culture shock for both men, as well as their guilt over the ones the lost or left behind.
After the events of Aug. 12, when the Taliban took the third-largest city in Afghanistan, the writers of the Warner Bros. TV-produced sitcom felt “something very big was going to change,” Ferrari said.
As Variety reported last year, the writers’ room of “United States of Al” is made up of seven writers who work under executive producers Ferrari, David Goetsch and Chuck Lorre. Three of those writers are Afghan or Afghan American, one is a veteran, and one is the fiancée of a veteran.
There were “pressing needs to get their own family members out of Afghanistan,” Ferrari explained. “And it happens that kind of the venn diagram of vets and afghans and Afghan Americans that is necessary to write this show is also the one that works as a fairly effective rescue operation. So, we had to stick a pin in everything and focus first on our people that needed help and who needed to get their families out.”
That experience inspired the new season premiere storyline.
In the episode, titled “Promises/Wadaha,” Al, Riley, Art (Dean Norris), Lizzie (Elizabeth Alderfer) and Vanessa (Kelli Goss) work together against a ticking clock to get Al’s sister Hassina (Sitara Attai) out of Afghanistan and to safety after Kabul falls.
“We chose to tell the story of what we were experiencing and hoping that some of the fear and the urgency that we were feeling in the room would come through,” she said.
“United States of Al” Season 2 premieres Oct. 7 at 8:31 p.m. on CBS.
UPDATED: This story has been updated to include the Season 2 premiere episode title and logline.