Tuesday, August 25, 2015

NBC Summer Pilot Review: The Carmichael Show - Premieres Wednesday, Aug. 26; WGN America Announces Launch Date for Prime Crime Block

Mr. Robinson

The Carmichael Show - Wednesdays at 9:00PM & 9:30PM ET/PT on NBC
Premieres Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 9:00PM & 9:30PM ET/PT


by Skees

From stand-up comedian Jerrod Carmichael comes The Carmichael Show, a series based upon his real family life. Everything seems to go pretty well back at home in his apartment (where he lives with his girlfriend, a therapist in training), but back at his parent's home, he has to deal with his vocal and politically incorrect father, a mother who fears God and will get involved in anything that is none of her business, and a brother who is always there to take advantage of everybody.

Cast Details:

Jerrod Carmichael as Jerrod Carmichael
Amber Stevens West as Maxine
David Alan Grier as Joe Carmichael
Loretta Devine as Cynthia Carmichael
Lil Rel Howard as Bobby Carmichael

Jerrod Carmichael (Jerrod) plays the starring role, which is (clearly) named after himself. Carmichael is a stand-up comic based in North Carolina, and previously had a recurring role on the short-lived Fox series The Goodwin Games.

Amber Stevens West (Maxine) plays Jerrod's live-in girlfriend. She is best known for her role on the ABC Family series Greek, but has also had appearances on How I Met Your Mother, 90210, New Girl, and Criminal Minds.

David Alan Grier (Joe) plays the Carmichael family patriarch. Grier started out as a dramatic actor originally, even appearing on Broadway shows, but found his true calling in comedy with In Living Color. He briefly had his own sitcom in the early 2000s with DAG, and later appeared on the ABC series Life with Bonnie. More recently, he appeared in the series Bad Teacher, and has had plenty of movie roles along the way.

Loretta Devine (Cynthia) plays the role of the Carmichael family mother. She is best known for her starring role on Boston Public, and has also had regular roles on Eli Stone and The Client List. She has appeared in several other guest starring roles, including one recurring role on Grey's Anatomy.

Lil Rel Howery (Bobby) plays Jerrod's brother. He is mostly known for his stand-up comedy, but has appeared on the TruTV series Friends of the People.


Pilot Plot:

We have watched the first three episodes for review (the first two of which will air this week), and the plots of them are as follows.

"Pilot" (Airs August 26 at 9:00PM ET)

Jerrod Carmichael is living with his girlfriend, which shouldn't be a huge deal... except he has to figure out how to tell his parents about this. It's not going to be easy, but he has a few tricks up his sleeves to make it a little bit easier.

"Protest" (Airs August 26 at 9:30PM ET)

The Black Lives Matter protests have divided the family just in time for Jerrod's birthday, and things only get more divisive when Maxine and Cynthia decide to join the protests, leaving Jerrod and Joe with their own war back at home.

"Kale" (Airs September 2 at 9:00PM ET)

Jerrod decides to force his parents to eat healthy when they visit his apartment, but in the midst of it, a health scare occurs with his father. Now, he is trying to do whatever he can to see that his father takes care of his health so that nothing worse happens, even if nobody is interested in actually living a healthier lifestyle.


Analysis:

This show has one huge problem: it's called The Carmichael Show, it stars Jerrod Carmichael, and as such it is supposed to be his show. A show about him and his character. In watching the first three episodes, however, I didn't really see him as the best thing or the star of the show. The roles of his parents, played by Loretta Devine and David Alan Grier, are the ones who really shine on this series. The real laughs in the episodes that I viewed mostly came from them, along with Jerrod's brother Bobby (Lil Rel Howery) and Bobby's ex-wife Nekiesha (Tiffany Haddish), and even the promos for the series have been making them out to be the stars of the series. The stars of the series aren't so great. There aren't so many great moments of them, especially when they're at the apartment all alone. But when the other characters are around? Those scenes were pretty good.

Fortunately, I think they seem to recognize that the show functions best when the entire family is there, and as a result, they're often together. I have to wonder, though, how they will continue this if the series were to continue for another season (which seems unlikely given the level of confidence NBC is showing the series as it is). How will they be able to explain the family constantly all being together all the time? If the series does go on, I think the appropriate move would be to make it more of an All in the Family style series where Jerrod and Maxine are living with Jerrod's parents. Those characters are very critical for the continued success (if that is what the network wants, at least) of the series.

The comedy in the series reminds me a lot of what The Millers was like on CBS, at least in the first season (the second season took a quick nosedive into cancellation). There is a lot of "dysfunctional family" comedy going on, whether it comes from the family argument about politics, family disagreements over the Black Lives Matter movement, or simply healthy eating habits. It is difficult to inject a lot of humor into these topics, but the series manages to do it.

One other small side-note, it really feels weird seeing David Alan Grier playing the role of the father of two grown sons. It seems like it wasn't all that long ago that he was just a young and fresh face on In Living Color (though he was in his 30s at that time even), but now he seems to appropriately fit this role of a character who is said to be 60 years old... which is about how old he is in real life.


Conclusion:

I sort of have mixed feelings about this series. As long as it continues to focus on life of the extended family, and not the (frankly) boring scenes back at the apartment, it could be a good series. But this is an NBC summer burn-off, so honestly, I think NBC is showing a lot of uncertainty about it before it even begins. It is a much better series than NBC's other summer sitcom, Mr. Robinson (which it was initially slated to be paired with), and I sort of feel like it deserves a place in next year's mid-season lineup, provided that they make a few minor tweaks. I can't necessarily say that the series is for everybody, but I'd recommend watching it and giving it a fair chance. It has great qualities, even if the series does need a bit of work.


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4/5
Funniness: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 9:00PM & 9:30PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:

  • NBC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • The Carmichael Show Photo Gallery


  • Preview:




    WGN America Person of Interest

    WGN America becomes the exclusive cable destination for TV's most popular procedurals, Elementary and Person of Interest, premiering Monday, August 31 and Tuesday, September 1, respectively, in the network's new "Prime Crime" line-up. Airing weekdays, back-to-back, starting at 7:00pm ET/6:00pm CT, the two hit crime dramas join fan-favorite Blue Bloods, in the new programming block that kicks off with a binge-worthy 100-episode event. Over the first two weeks, a total of 100 installments of Elementary and Person of Interest will give viewers the opportunity to watch these compelling series from the very beginning, diving into the cases and capers that have unfolded since their television debuts. WGN America acquired the exclusive off-network rights to the coveted dramas in 2014. The schedule of important dates are below:

    Monday, August 31 (7:00pm-1:00am/ET)
    Elementary debuts with six back-to-back episodes

    Tuesday, September 1 (7:00pm–1:00am/ET)
    Person of Interest debuts with three back-to-back episodes, followed by three episodes of Elementary

    Labor Day Marathon, Monday, September 7 (1:00pm–1:00am/ET)
    12-hour marathon features episodes of both Elementary and Person of Interest


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    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of December 11)

    Monday, December 11

    • Zendaya (K.C. Undercover/Shake It Up) - Watch Zendaya on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. She also talks about The Greatest Showman on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
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