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Being politically correct, or fearing backlash, has changed the output of comedy. This can especially be said for network TV for the Archie Bunker types could never get a green light nowadays. However, The Carmichael Show seems to dance on that line. The line of which what an overly sensitive culture will allow for comedy yet will praise for its insight. So with the 3rd season coming this Wednesday, let’s talk about the last two.
The show focuses on a tight-knit family and doesn’t feature hardly anyone outside their circle. Well, outside of bit parts. The star is Jerrod Carmichael (Playing himself) and he is almost without definition. You can’t point to your usual tropes to explain him. He is a decent played, young Black guy, but he isn’t in entertainment. Also, as much as he likes having nice things, there isn’t some need to prove, like we get with Dre in Black-ish, some need to prove he is still down.
Alongside him, we have Maxine (Amber Stevens West), who is his fiancée, as of the end of the 2nd season. She is biracial, Black mom and a Jewish dad. Something which is noted often for on top of being bi-racial, her father was rich and mom has issues. The type of issues which really rocked Maxine’s childhood and paired with a dad who sees her as an investment, it makes for an odd family dynamic.
Hence why Maxine loves Jerrod’s family since they are so close. Joe (David Alan Grier), the patriarch of the family, is that sort of Archie Bunker type. Just made for the modern day. One key example would be him being some kind or Republican and a participant in Islamophobia. There is even an episode dedicated to him stealing a package which arrived for he feared there could be a bomb in it.
Next to him is his wife Cynthia (Loretta Divine). She perhaps is one of the few on the show who really fit any kind of trope. Albeit not one often seen on network TV, but for Black families, she is a well-known character. Said character being the traditional holy roller. The kind who refers to the Bible as much as possible, to use for whatever pushes their point. Also, she likes being traditional. She isn’t trying to prove herself capable of doing all her husband can. She got a husband for a reason, don’t she? So when it comes to changing a tire and all that, she finds no point in trying to do a man’s work. Especially since she finds it sexy when he does it.
Oh, I should also add that she is that type of mom who thinks no one is good enough for her baby. Leading you to wonder how she used to treat Nekeisha (Tiffany Haddish), Bobby’s former wife. Now, to call Nekeisha ghetto would be an understatement. From looting, the way she talks, many of her jokes dealing with violence, and a huge amount of social cues, its clear Nekeisha is some kind of around the way girl. Yet, she isn’t a caricature. There is something surprisingly genuine about her and unlike Cookie in Empire, you can tell her hood mentality wasn’t necessarily written to be a consistent punchline.
Leaving Bobby (Lil Rel Howery). He is Cynthia and Joe’s oldest, Nekeisha’s ex, and all Jerrod tries not to be. For if it isn’t him having to constantly move back in with his family, it is him relying on Nekeisha long after their breakup. To put it simply, Bobby has no drive. Well, unless it is likes on Instagram or some kind of praise. For it really is established that, in general, he kind of lives in Jerrod’s shadow. So, because of that, he sucks up to his parents whenever possible. Also, he only really goes against Jerrod when the majority would join him. Otherwise, he isn’t that vocal about being in the opposition.
Each Episode Is A Different Topic From All Points of View
You’d be hard pressed to find another show which has touched on so many issues and brings about a Black perspective to them. For whether it is gender roles, abortion, porn, guns, how to treat the dead, or depression? This isn’t something I’m used to seeing hit one after another. Usually, maybe one tent pole topic maybe done a season. Similar to Black-ish’s post Trump episode when Dre made his semi-iconic speech. With this show, however, pretty much every episode is a conversation starter. Which, with there being just 13 episodes a season, it makes it where you get no small issues really, just ones that matter.
Though what I also like is that with a diverse cast, personality, and background wise, you get thoughts from different perspectives. Maxine, being that she is a bit of a social justice warrior, and majors in psychology, brings a very different respective compared to Cynthia and Joe who are a bit more conservative. Not necessarily to the point of being tokens on Fox News, or rather a Triscuit 1, but definitely not laissez-faire type liberals who don’t see abortion as murder, among other things. Then you got Jerrod who is a mix between his parents’ “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” traditional mentality, and the millennial outlook. All of which makes it seem one idea conflicts with another, bringing even more complexity to the character.
Something we often don’t get to see. For if the character isn’t some kind of social justice warrior or liberal, they are often silent. Take Olivia Pope on Scandal, for example. We have seen her help one Republican after another get in office, but does she talk politics? Do we ever hear why she has fully aligned herself with the Republican ticket time after time? It isn’t like she couldn’t be successful on the Democratic or even a 3rd party ticket. So what makes the Republicans so special? Besides her having sex with one president and trying to apologize for that with the next?
It Really Doesn’t Have Traditional Storylines
The Carmichael Show doesn’t really have character arcs and storylines. All that is placed, not even on the backburner. If anything the meat wasn’t even bought from the supermarket. Now, don’t get me wrong, things do happen to characters. Bobby becomes a super of a building, Maxine and Jerrod get engaged, anniversaries happen, and stuff like that. However, there is no following up or through on a story. Anything like what is mentioned is more like an anecdote. Just something to help push the topic at hand and show how a person is trying to deal or bypass the issue. Though I should note, sometimes the topic doesn’t even deal with the issue. Such as Maxine and Jerrod announcing they were engaged vs. a Trump rally coming locally.
What perhaps is most unfortunate though is all the issues don’t really spill over into other episodes. Take the fact that Jerrod becomes close to a trans teen. After that one episode of meeting the kid, and getting to know them, said kid isn’t seen ever again. They are not even referred to or asked about. Something which I find disappointing about the show. At least when it comes to subjects which can be carried over but not feel like they are being harped on.
Character Development is Nil
Again, being that this is a tent pole issue type of show vs. one which focuses on the daily drama of its cast, at times it seems like each season is contained within a single month. With that, you don’t see much change with characters. Again, little things happen, like Bobby becoming a super and Jerrod getting engaged. However, as noted, a lot of things aren’t built upon. They are just used for the purpose of the episode and then the show moves on.
Overall: Positive (Watch This) – Recommended
What makes The Carmichael Show worth viewing is it dares to be different. For while you may find a trope or stereotype here and there, there is a full person behind it. Nekeisha being ghetto isn’t for the sole purpose of laughing at her stereotypes. You can see a real person behind every movement and everything she says. She isn’t just a joke to not take seriously. Then when it comes to Jerrod’s parents, while Cynthia may not like Maxine, and Joe is kind of the stereotypical dad at times, they push against your perceptions repeatedly.
Hence the positive, and recommended labels. For The Carmichael Show is by no means lazy. Yes, it doesn’t employ storylines but that is because it isn’t pursuing creating over the top drama. The type it always has to up the ante for in order to show how significant one moment is.
No. The Carmichael Show is about real conversations featuring real people. People who sometimes say politically incorrect stuff and don’t change their mind over the course of a 22-minute program. They are stuck in their ways and, at best, can agree to disagree. Something we don’t see enough for most shows just focus on right and wrong and rubbing being wrong in the minority opinion’s group. So with The Carmichael Show featuring not only diverse opinions, from Black people, but touching on so many tent pole topics, it is hard to not only praise the show but also not enjoy it.