August 27, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “The Carmichael Show”


THE CARMICHAEL SHOW:  Wednesday 9PM on NBC – If Nothing Else Is On…

THE CARMICHAEL SHOW is the latest sitcom to be aired by NBC with a stealth run that suggests one of the network’s programming executives looked at another recently and asked “Do you even remember why we ordered this thing?” and got a shrug in response.  In this case, that’s a little bit unfortunate, because although The Carmichael Show isn’t very good, it has the beginnings of what could become a viable comic voice.

The show, which is built around the young stand-up comic Jerrod Carmichael, but which somehow required a quartet of creators (Carmichael, Nicholas Stoller, Ari Katcher and Willie Hunter), is very basic:  a multi-camera sitcom where the main characters are Jerrod himself, perky psychologist-in-training girlfriend Maxine (Amber Stevens West), less upscale brother Bobby (Lil Rel Howery), Bobby’s ex-wife Nekeisha (Tiffany Haddish), and meddlesome, out of touch Mom Cynthia (Loretta Devine) and Pop Joe (David Alan Grier).  The opening episode of the two shown tonight (written by Carmichael and Stoller, from a story by all 4 creators, and directed by Mark Cendrowski) had a storyline out of the stone age, as Jerrod avoided telling Cynthia and Joe that Maxine had moved in with him because he knew they’d disapprove.  With Devine directing her performance to the fourth balcony of the soundstage, and the relatives outdoing each other in causing irritation, it was easy to dread the worst.

The one interesting thing about the pilot was that in an effort to distract his parents from Maxine’s insistence on telling them about the new living arrangements, Jerrod brought up politics, provoking quasi-Archie Bunker-ish responses from his dad (who voted for George W. Bush just for the stimulus check).  There was at least a sense of engagement with the world that isn’t the case with most family sitcoms, and that was even more the case in the night’s second episode (written by Carmichael and Katcher, and directed by Gerry Cohen).  This one had Jerrod’s birthday celebration interrupted by news of a demonstration to protest the police killing of an unarmed black man, which prompted Maxine and Cynthia to go to the protest together, while Joe lectured Jerrod on the police side of some shootings, and Nekeisha looted Jerrod a birthday present.  None of this went particularly deep, and all was resolved in neat network comedy fashion at the end of the half-hour, but it demonstrated an attention to social issues and an interest in exploring them through the characters.

The Carmichael Show would take time that it doesn’t have to figure out how to meld political commentary with such a traditional format and familiar set of characters, but compared to Mr. Robinson or NBC’s upcoming multi-racial comedy Truth Be Told, it was practically Key & Peele.  Carmichael might one day be an effective star/creator of a TV comedy, even if this isn’t likely to be the one.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."