Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Pilot Review: The Carmichael Show

The Carmichael Show (Wednesdays at 9:00 on NBC; Premieres August 26)

This show is horrible. The acting, the writing, the concept, all of it's awful. Truly, truly bad. Don't watch it.

It's the early 1990s again on NBC with The Carmichael Show. Jerrod, playing himself, and his girlfriend, Maxine (Greek's Amber Stevens West) have just moved in together. Maxine thinks Jerrod's parents, Joe (David Alan Grier) and Cynthia (Emmy winner Loretta Devine), deserve to know, but Jerrod disagrees: his parents, particularly his mother, have old-fashioned views on how and when couples should live together, thanks to her reliance on the Bible and prayer. That's why Jerrod's brother Bobby (stand-up comic LilRel Howery) and his ex-wife haven't told them they've been separated for three months. Hijinks ensue!

Just in the first two minutes, there's a joke about tampons and about why we don't need to vote ("He inspired me and so many other people... so many other people, I figured, hell, he doesn't need me."), and an in-laws joke too, just because this is a show about two people moving in together and in-laws are the worst part of every relationship according to sitcoms. As another minute goes by, there's a slavery joke, because this is a cast of African American actors, so there has to be at least one. Throw in every black stereotype in the book (religious, overbearing mother; uneducated men; sassy women; mixed race, and therefore inferior, girlfriend; lather, rinse, repeat), and you have an obnoxious, backwards, pointless show replete with jokes that aren't funny or fresh and shrill, amateur performances.

Jerrod Carmichael is not an actor. I don't know what he's good at, but this isn't it. Perhaps his stand-up is better, and for his career's sake, I would hope so. As an actor, his line delivery is stilted, awkward, and worse than those found in most high school plays (think loud, no variance in tone, blank facial expressions... the works). His writing isn't any better, consisting primarily of rants about politics ("You can start whatever wars you want as long as you send me a $1,600 stimulus check!") and religions ("There's no prayer in school, and it's because of the democrats!" - "You mean they don't let them little babies pray?!"). These types of jokes might work in a stand-up setting or as monologues, but like John Mulaney earlier this season, Carmichael just can't write linear stories peppered with jokes (in fact, he can barely write a punchline; I mean, just look at these examples from the script). The only actor who comes out looking no worse than when the pilot episode began is David Alan Grier. Loretta Devine shrieks her way through a host of annoying Bible jokes; LilRel Howery is hardly understandable doing a Kevin Hart impersonation; and Amber Stevens West has about as much screen presence as a ficus.

Not that any of this matters, because no amount of talent on screen could make up for the horrendous writing. In this case, it's just sad that the cast is grating in addition to the jokes being grating, the laugh track being grating, and the characterizations being grating.

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