The Carmichael Show: Too Real For TV

I remember a different age of television.

Growing up in the 90’s, options were drastically fewer. So much so that a good portion of the television I watched as a kid were sitcoms from the 70s that were in syndication. Some good, plenty bad, but I watched ALL them shits. What’s Happening?, Three’s Company, hell, I even watched M.A.S.H. if I had to and they had a guy named Spearchucker Jones. At a young age I realized that the best  and most important shows were accurate and unapologetic reflections of the times they existed in. Now, sometimes that means you might be offended given our countries sketchy history, but these moments are the ones that echo loudest, many still ring some 40 years later.

I could be wrong, but I don’t believe anyone has had more of those moments than Norman Lear, creator of shows like All in the Family, Sanford & Son, Good Times, The JeffersonsMaude, and a litany of other classics.

Now that I think about it, two of Norman Lear’s most famed characters, Fred Sanford and George Jefferson are responsible for the first times I’ve ever heard the word “nigger” on television, maybe the only times I’ve heard it on networks. Even Archie Bunker would use terms like “coon” or “spick” frequent as hell. These shows of course were in reruns, but still, the balls to tackle issues of race relations and poverty really made an impact on the type of things I would come to watch as an adult.

It’s the same reason why I enjoy The Carmichael Show.

I didn’t want to write anything about this show until the 2nd season had ended, though not because I didn’t love it. It had more to do with how shows are churned out and treated by the network machine during whats become known as Pilot Season. Every year during the summer, active viewers get more pilots than we know what to do with; 30 shows can be a hell of a lot to sift thru. So when I came across the pilot for The Carmichael Show I was extremely excited due to Jerrod Carmichael currently being one of my favorite stand-up comedians. That also came with a bit of trepidation. Not for me, but for him. I know his brand of funny and that shit ain’t for everybody. Its raw, in your face, brash and unafraid of making you uncomfortable. I didn’t know if NBC was ready for this type of voice.

Yup, Bill Cosby, Superman molesting a young boy and Hitler.

They gave THIS nigga a show?

Starting off, I had very little expectation outside of laughing my ass off. I didn’t have a clue if he would be the next in a long line of stand up comedians to flame out on a bad sitcom.

After the pilot episode, which played it a little safe if I’m being honest, you could sense this show was going somewhere. The second episode was about Jerrod wanting to go to a Black Lives Matter protest for his birthday. The third was an indictment on black men and the real and stereotypical fear of modern medicine. The following episode was about a child who’s transgender. It just kept going on like this, each episode raising the stakes a little higher. Then as suddenly as it came it was gone. The trial period was over and when it was all said and done, only 6 episodes were aired. I wasn’t sure if it was a bad sign or not. Did they go too far? Was my original inclination correct? Maybe this shit is just too real for major network television. Perhaps it’s just too non universal.

The Carmichael Show - Season 1

It was excellent, well written, groundbreaking television. I told everyone with whom I share comedic sensibilities to check out the show when they had a chance. The cast was solid as hell. Another of my favorite comics, Lil Rel, plays Jerrod’s brother and their parents are played by comedic legend David Alan Grier and motherly veteran of screen and stage, Loretta Divine.

Time passed and I hadn’t heard anything about the future of the show, and then boom; it was renewed and given a full season. No one was happier about that shit than me. Well, I’m sure Jerrod was, but you catch my drift. Seven months elapsed before it came back and it’s new season brought higher expectations. NBC let Jerrod stay in the house, now he had to show them why he belonged there. I’ll be damned if he didn’t deliver.

Season two was a complete barrage of today’s most pressing issues including martial infidelity, the war on Islam, gentrification, mental health, the prison industrial complex, and Donald Trumps troubling rise to political prominence. Literally every episode was a hot button issue worthy of tens of thousands of hate emails and even a few protests. There was literally no fluff whatsoever.

For me, it’s really just trying to push true perspective and emotional arcs. Not just putting a ribbon on things at the end of the half-hour. It’s getting people to go beyond that fear. It’s the most difficult thing because everyone wants to make a hit, everyone wants the show to be profitable. But in that process, a lot of times you overlook the things that will make people genuinely connect to what you’re doing.- Jerrod Carmichael  in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.

During the run of the second season something else started to happen, an occurrence that is so rare in my life that I didn’t really know how to respond. It seems the world caught up to what I championed and suddenly Jerrod Carmichael was all over the place. Conversations with Norman Lear, an interview with the insanely popular Breakfast Club, GQ articles, even Rotten Tomatoes, a go-to site for rating entertainment, has his show scored at 85% with critics. That’s remarkably high for anything, let alone a show about a black man and his black family that doesn’t delve into the tritest of stereotypes.

Truly, his voice is once of the important ones. Every generation we get a few of these guys but very rarely are their views broadcasted nationally on a major network like NBC. Although the second season just wrapped on May 29th, it has already been renewed for a third season.

I, for one, can NOT wait but until then I’m probably going to double down and re-watch seasons 1 & 2 again.

Sometimes you just need that raw shit.

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