It isn’t shocking that The Carmichael Show falls by the wayside in the “TV-of-2017” conversation. It’s a multi-cam sitcom in which a family sits around and argues about things. Not exactly American Gods or Stranger Things, or even Silicon Valley. It barely has a hook – again, it’s about a family arguing about politics. Every episode. Conversations about politics.
And yet, in the current political climate, The Carmichael Show stands out as even more important than the shows mentioned above. In this sense, it is somewhat surprising that it’s managed, essentially, to fly under the radar for the past three years. The fact that an NBC sitcom with an all-Black cast that is primarily about contemporary political issues isn’t more visible is unfortunate, to say the very least.
The show stars Jerrod Carmichael as “himself,” Amber Stevens West as his girlfriend Maxine, and Loretta Devine and David Alan Grier as Jerrod’s parents. Episodes of the show tend to have a fairly defined structure: one character stakes out a position on a hot-button political issue – say, gun control or Bill Cosby or even a certain United States President whose name I’m currently forgetting – and another strongly disagrees. Soon, everyone in the family has taken a side and they spend the rest of the episode arguing over whatever the issue of the week happens to be. That’s it. It’s that simple.
Why You Should Watch
The most subversive aspect of the show is how it consistently allows characters to hold opinions you wouldn’t necessarily expect from them, and refrains from judgement (most of the time). Characters on The Carmichael Show have the occasional conservative viewpoint, but aren’t demonized for it the way they might be on another NBC sitcom. I would venture a guess that it is this element of the show, more than any other, that makes many in the critical community slightly uncomfortable.
The cast is stellar. Carmichael himself is a singular pleasure to watch in this format – he’s funny and charming and self-deprecating and a whole lot more. West is great as the staunchly progressive foil to… everyone else, really. Her character, Maxine, tends to be at the center of the argument-of-the-week and West pulls off the mix of actual altruism and virtue-signaling that so accurately defines the archetype that is Maxine. Devine and Grier are so good in their roles it would be worth watching The Carmichael Show for them alone. As Jerrod’s brother Bobby, Lil Rel Howery typically brings the emotional pathos to the show, and he’s fantastic – particularly in the recent third season premiere wherein he’s unsure if, by Maxine’s standards, he would be considered a rapist or not. And it’s always a highlight when Tiffany Haddish shows up as Bobby’s ex. She pops up for a second, makes the funniest joke of the episode, and then just disappears for a while. The show uses her perfectly – just enough, but not too much.
You should be watching The Carmichael Show. That’s all there is to it.