‘The Carmichael Show’ Represents a Positive Step for Black Sitcoms on Network Television

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img The Carmichael Show premiered last Wednesday on NBC with a two-episode block, and got off to a promising start.  The first episode drew 4.8 million viewers and the second episode drew 4.1 million viewers. The numbers make The Carmichael Show the biggest summer comedy debut from a big four network since 2007.  This is good news for NBC and even better news for comedian Jerrod Carmichael.

The plot revolves around Carmichael’s life with his live-in, psychologist girlfriend Maxine (Amber Stevens West), his job hopping brother (Lil Rel Howery), his religious, overzealous mother (Loretta Devine), and his opinionated, non sequitur spouting father (David Alan Grier).

But don’t be mislead by the traditional sitcom circumstance including a multi-cam setup, laugh track and trope characters.  The Carmichael Show boasts a distinctive political tone, exceptional casting and very funny, contemporary commentary.  The first episode explores Black political party loyalties, and voting rights.  The second episode’s plot revolves around the protest of an unarmed Black man being shot on Jerrod’s birthday. Maxine even wears a Black Lives Matter T-shirt. This isn’t standard operating procedure for any sitcom airing on the big four networks.  While there are only four episodes remaining during its summer series run, there’s potential for the show to get renewed with it’s solid numbers and positive overall reception.

Carmichael may be new to a lot of casual viewers, but as of late, he’s been garnering critical acclaim for his comedy skills. Last year, Carmichael showcased his talents for observational comedy in his hilarious HBO special, Jerrod Carmichael: Love at The Store, which was directed by Spike Lee.  In last year’s smash comedy hit, Neighbors, Carmichael presented a great supporting turn as Garf.  Getting a short run and a renewal will help go a long way, not just for Carmichael, but Black sitcoms in general.

Excluding Black-ish and Mr. Robinson (also a short run NBC series), it’s a stark landscape for Black sitcoms on network television despite the current golden age of television.  Even on cable there’s only a handful, and there are even fewer Black sitcoms once Tyler Perry’s shows are taken out the equation.

The Carmichael Show offers continued glimmers of promise, which will act as a beacon for future Black sitcoms on network television.

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