Articles: NBC's new sitcom brings politics and family life to primetime




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By Samantha Ofole Prince

Family life has been the focus of black comedy routines for decades and NBC's new family sitcom "The Carmichael Show" doesn’t stray too far from that formula.

A half-hour situational comedy he says is inspired by his family, Jerrod Carmichael, executive producer, writer and star of the series has garnered a great ensemble cast and created a family that’s easy to relate to.

With just six episodes under its belt, the series, which also stars David Alan Grier, Loretta Devine, Amber Stevens West, Lil Rel Howery and Tiffany Haddish has already tackled religion, same-sex marriage, and protests in the black community.

“It’s inspired by my life,” says Carmichael. “My family were not just passive television viewers. Something would happen and we would talk about it. When Will Smith was shot on the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air,’ that sparked a whole conversation about safety. We watch classic shows like ‘Cheers’ and we would comment on it. If people can watch this and it sparks a conversation in their own lives then our mission is accomplished. That is what television did for me and I want to contribute in those ways by writing something relatable.”

The series follows the Carmichaels, a lower middle class family with staunch morals and values surviving in the middle of all the cultural differences that are going on. Grier, as the patriarch, is a truck driver who is not always ready to embrace change and Devine is a stay at home religious mother. Both are raising the family that consists of two adult sons. Jerrod (played by Jerrod Carmichael), the more successful of the two is navigating through life with his therapist in-training girlfriend (Amber Stevens West) while his brother Bobby (Lil Rel Howery) is the underachiever with several pyramids schemes up his sleeve. A churchgoer who volunteers in the community, Devine’s world revolves around taking care of her two boys and husband.

“I think about her a lot like Edith Bunker [a fictional 1970s sitcom character on 'All in the Family'] in that she has that strong love for her husband and is running around doing everything and putting everybody first,” says Devine. “Luckily, my character has a much bigger mouth and a lot more to say and that’s because she is a black woman.”

“He is a laid back man,” Grier adds. “As a couple, they are old school black people who are trying to change, but there is only so much change you will get out of them. It’s a minefield out there and our son is bringing this whole new world to us.”

The show has positioned itself, rather surprisingly, as a unique forum for discussing family life choosing to tackle tough topics, especially within the first few months of production.
“We talk about these topics in social terms,” Grier continues. “We are not afraid to talk about important issues in a funny, creative and hopefully inventive way.”

“We just shot a protest episode where a kid gets shot in our town,” adds Carmichael, ”and the discussion is whether to protest and how to deal with it. It’s never preachy. It’s exciting to talk about those thing as it reflects real conversations.

"The Carmichael Show" series premieres Wednesday Aug. 26, at 9pm/8pm central time on NBC.

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