There is nothing obviously unique about the construction of The Carmichael Show, NBC’s summer sitcom created by and starring comedian Jerrod Carmichael, which managed to get a second-season order on Monday. Filmed, in defiance of current trends, before a live studio audience, The Carmichael Show stars Carmichael as a man forced to deal with his opinionated father, his conservative mother, a slacker brother, and a therapist-in-training live-in girlfriend.
What makes The Carmichael Show stand out is the way that it utilizes those familiar comedic building blocks, assembling stories that mix the mundane elements that make up many family sitcoms with hot-button issues — an uncommon formula, to say the least. Uncommon now, that is.
There’s a long tradition of socially minded sitcoms that goes back to All in the Family, but as other sorts of shows — from those depicting singlehood to the great rebirth of the family sitcom — have risen in prominence, people have largely moved away from topic material, with a few exceptions. That’s why Carmichael‘s willingness to do this right out of the gate speaks to Jerrod Carmichael’s ambition and willingness to make a statement.
Telling stories that center on prayer, gun control, gender identity, police brutality and racism in your first six episodes doesn’t seem like the pathway to longevity and broad acceptance. It seems like something you do when you know that the odds are stacked against any new sitcom — especially one on NBC that doesn’t make the fall schedule — and you want to make the most of the forum while you can. That’s an admirable decision, as has been the way The Carmichael Show has drawn humor from serious topics without trivializing them or preaching to the audience. But while the show deserves applause for what it’s already accomplished, the question has to be asked: What now?