TV

Chuck Lorre’s New CBS Sitcom Is Drawing Outrage Online Over Its Portrayal Of An Afghan Character

Sports can often shine an interesting light on the world, and apparently that includes the forthcoming CBS sitcom lineup.
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, for example, floods CBS and its affiliate networks with viewers who may be unfamiliar with what else is playing on CBS when it’s not March and early April.

Indeed, sports fans had a strong reaction to a new CBS comedy from Chuck Lorre, whose trailer played a lot over the last few days. Called the United States of Al, it involves a former US soldier (Parker Young) who was deployed to Afghanistan and is struggling to readjust to post-war life in Ohio. His Afghan interpreter Awalmir (played by Adhir Kalyan) has also moved to the United States and is struggling to adjust to life in America.

The show’s trailer, which you can watch above, debuted about a fortnight ago. But over the weekend the footage went viral on Twitter, as people couldn’t believe the show’s premise and the flippant jokes.

The trailer also made Chuck Lorre, the show’s creator, trend on Twitter, as many criticized his past work as well. But the focus was about Al, and what was deemed at the very least a missed opportunity and at the most, wildly insensitive to the immigrant experience and the impact of a decades-long war in Afghanistan.

As The Hollywood Reporter pointed out on Sunday, an executive producer for the show posted a lengthy defense of it:

One of the show’s executive producers, Reza Aslan, responded to the criticism on Saturday, tweeting, “Maybe learn a little about the show, its creators, it’s producers, it’s four Afghan writers, it’s plot, and pretty much everything else before you announce your opinion of it. Just a thought,” and also, “Because it’s my show I can make sure that it is written and produced by Afghans and Muslims. That it uses the format to reframe the perception that people have of both. That it portrays a Muslim Afghan protagonist in a true and honest light.” He also challenged, “Fun fact: you haven’t seen it so can’t really comment from a place of knowledge now can you?”

That strong rebuke did nothing to slow that wave down, though, and Lorre’s shows are certainly not immune to criticism for their content. But we’ll just have to wait and see what the show is actually like when it debuts on April 1. No, really. That last part is not a joke.

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